Labor Day: A Celebration of all American Workers

With a history spanning more than 50 years, PRIDE Industries has been creating opportunities for those most often excluded from employment – people with disabilities. At PRIDE, we know that individuals with disabilities are talented and capable of overcoming obstacles to employment.

Like everyone else, people with disabilities have strengths and skills that contribute to our nation; on Labor Day we celebrate the social and economic accomplishments of all American workers – with and without disabilities. Together, we can chip away at the stubborn statistic that affects individuals with disabilities – they are twice as likely to be unemployed.

Employment is essential to an individual’s sense of purpose, dignity, and inclusion. PRIDE’s programs and services are tailored to serve the needs of the individual to help them achieve their goals.

From all of us at PRIDE Industries – thank you for your contributions to our nation! Have a great and safe Labor Day.

A Day in the Life of a PRIDE Industries Job Developer

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PRIDE Industries is proud to be the largest provider of employment services for individuals with disabilities in the state of California. What makes this success possible is our network of dedicated Job Developers and Job Coaches, who assess each client’s abilities, strengths and obstacles while identifying new employment placement opportunities.

Kimberly Jamerson is a Job Developer in PRIDE’s Placerville, California office. In this role, she connects individuals with disabilities to employers in the local community – annually placing approximately 12-15 individuals in employment. Below is a description of her role, told in her own words:

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“I joined PRIDE as an Independent Living Skills Coordinator and was later promoted to a Job Developer in 2010. Through time, I learned how to identify each individual’s capabilities and how to address their obstacles to employment.”

“Our consumers (clients) have various types of intellectual or developmental disabilities; many of them are looking for their first job. During the intake process, we learn about their interests, capabilities, and challenges. My role then is to prepare them for potential employment (Employment Preparation) while building their confidence and ensuring them that they will have support throughout the process.”

“Placerville, CA is located within El Dorado County, which is mainly rural. This location presents obstacles, especially since many of our consumers do not have access to a vehicle or cannot drive, and the bus system is limited. We work to identify solutions to transportation and any other barriers towards job attendance and performance prior to a consumer being placed in employment.”

“It might take several interviews over a long period of time, but I work hard to find each consumer a job. For example, I had an individual that struggled to measure time. We worked with him by purchasing a specialized watch and practicing clocking in/out. Practice made perfect, and he was soon hired as a courtesy clerk at a grocery store. He has worked there now for over two years!”

“Making that first connection with employers and business owners is often challenging; it is similar to conducting a sales pitch and requires multiple-follow ups. Many are skeptical about PRIDE’s mission and success rates. However, I’m passionate about my job and will do whatever I can to help educate employers about our programs and the abilities of our consumers.”

“Persistence does pay off, and it’s always worthwhile when I start a relationship between PRIDE and a new business partner. My strategy is to identify the best person to introduce myself to, explain how the unique abilities of our consumer(s) will meet their needs, and how PRIDE will support them along the way. The best part of my job is when I’m able to help both parties and create more opportunities for people with disabilities – especially when businesses start to contact me when they need new employees!”

“In summary, my job allows me to work with people from all walks of life, create a more diverse workforce, and to use my creativity to help change lives. There is nothing more rewarding than when an individual with a disability reaches their goal and earns the independence that comes with a job.”

We thank you, Kimberly, for your dedication towards placing individuals with disabilities into employment and making a positive impact.

Making A Difference

Marylyn
“When I go to work, I smile because I’m truly happy to be there.”

Marylyn Jackson, a custodian at PRIDE Industries’ Environmental and Custodial Services contract at VSP Global, makes it her mission to provide excellent customer service with a friendly attitude. VSP Global is a vision care health insurance and retail eyewear company headquartered in Rancho Cordova, CA. In her position, Marylyn details offices, cleans baseboards, and dusts chairs and desks; creating a clean, healthy and welcoming atmosphere for their employees and guests.

Marylyn and PRIDE’s team of custodians play an essential role in providing LEED standard Environmental and Custodial services to VSP. LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is an environmental certification program for buildings focused on promoting sustainability. By following these standards, PRIDE protects the health of building occupants while keeping the local environment free from toxic chemical contamination.

Instrumental to PRIDE’s success in reaching these standards is training our custodians to utilize the PRIDEClean® Custodial Process, which involves using the EPA-recognized PRIDEClean® cleaning products and high-efficiency filtered and microfiber cleaning equipment, as well as focusing on reducing chemical usage while delivering high-quality service. According to Marylyn, “This training helped me to perfect my skills and gain more confidence in myself as a custodian.”

“Marylyn’s high level of job performance shows in our building audits,” said Custodial Manager Brenda Sanchez. “The buildings that she is responsible for always score extremely high. Marylyn constantly receives great feedback from our customers, and her enthusiasm is contagious. We are very fortunate to have her on our team.”

“The customers I serve are my biggest motivation,” said Marylyn. “I aim to be courteous and polite to make the workplace feel hospitable so that they feel more motivated to do well in their jobs…. that’s what I’m here for! It’s always great to interact with my customers and colleagues.”

Before becoming employed at PRIDE Industries, Marylyn worked seasonally for over a decade. When she decided to look for a permanent position, she turned to PRIDE Industries’ Employment Services office in Fair Oaks, CA. After observing her great attitude and excellent work ethic, PRIDE’s staff placed Marylyn at VSP in February 2017.

“I’m so grateful and proud to have full-time employment,” said Marylyn. “PRIDE treats me like family. Working here, I realize how many other people also have disabilities. Some are visible, some are not (like my learning disability) – but with support, we all can get the job done together and make a difference.”

Independence – of a Different Kind


“Those who won our independence believed liberty to be the secret of happiness.” 
— Louis Dembitz Brandeis

Tomorrow, we celebrate Independence Day – Fourth of July. As a nation, we celebrate our freedom, liberties, and independence that we as Americans enjoy.

Independence – of a different kind – is the fuel that keeps PRIDE Industries moving forward. This concept of ‘independence’ can have many different meanings and can be a very personal undertaking for people with disabilities.

PRIDE’s commitment to helping individuals with disabilities to overcome barriers to employment and other obstacles to independence began in 1966. As an organization, we are committed to creating opportunities for people with disabilities – the foundation of independence and a self-sufficient life.

What is independence?

For some, it is complete freedom from the need for, or reliance upon, a program or services. For others, it is merely the ability to participate in and contribute to their community. For each, the catalyst for accomplishing these goals is through employment; a job.

Having a job provides, “social, psychological, and financial benefits that improve health” and make for a happier life. For more information on the benefits of employment and its correlation with one’s health, click here.

Working at PRIDE or with one of more than 250 community partners means gaining the skills needed to achieve greater self-sufficiency.

On Fourth of July and year-round, let’s celebrate the triumphs and achievements of individuals overcoming barriers to employment.

 

From all of us at PRIDE Industries – Happy Independence Day!

What I Can Achieve

Things are looking up for Justin Igama as he gets closer to reaching his dream of becoming a physical therapist; he is currently earning his degree in kinesiology while working as an associate at Amazon, Inc. “What inspires and motivates me to enter this career field is that these professionals helped me navigate through my own mobility issues. I will be able to relate to patients since I have experienced all of the related challenges and breakthroughs.”

Justin has cerebral palsy (CP), a neurological disorder that affects muscle coordination and mobility. Individuals with cerebral palsy experience symptoms differently, which can include paralysis, inability to walk or to communicate verbally. According to the Cerebral Palsy Foundation, one in three people affected by cerebral palsy are unable to walk, and one in five cannot talk.

“I received my diagnosis of CP when I was three years old,” said Justin. “It feels like my brain doesn’t communicate well with my muscles. Having this disability used to make me insecure and doubt my abilities; however, it made me develop resilience and determination. My involvement in sports such as wrestling and boxing has also helped me realize that I can achieve what I set my mind to, including working in a competitive environment.”

While starting his college studies in 2016, Justin attempted to find work to support himself. After several months of struggling to find a position, he was referred to PRIDE Industries’ Employment Services Office in Sacramento, CA. With help from Job Coach John Edwards, he practiced interviewing and fine-tuned his resume.

“I learned that a positive first impression is key to engaging employers,” says Justin. “I made special efforts to speak properly and to dress well. However, after multiple interviews, I noticed that my disability and use of a cane to walk might have convinced many that I could not do a job involving lifting and walking around. It proved very frustrating.”

Despite the wait of almost a year, timing proved perfect when PRIDE placed Justin into an associate trainee position at Amazon’s Sacramento Fulfillment Center in late 2016. In this job, he was responsible for sorting items that were delivered to PRIME Now customers. “There were many challenges at first, including learning the variety of new instructions and rules,” said Justin. “I had to work really hard to prove myself.”

Applying skills that he learned from his training with PRIDE, Justin reached out to his supervisor to learn where he could improve. He took the advice and continued to receive consistent positive ratings. PRIDE Job Coach John Edwards was there to help Justin with encouragement and advice.

As Justin grew more skilled and confident, management took notice; Amazon offered him a permanent position in November 2017. “It felt great to finally obtain permanent employment and to prove that I am capable of working in competitive employment with people without disabilities,” said Justin. “They treat me as an important part of the team. With this job, I have earned independence and can support myself financially while I complete my studies.”

“I hope that my story helps others with cerebral palsy to show that they can also achieve successful employment. There may be challenges along the way, but with hard work, perseverance and a support team, they can accomplish their dreams.”

Honoring Our Fallen Heroes

“137 years later, Memorial Day remains one of America’s most cherished patriotic observances. The spirit of this day has not changed-it remains a day to honor those who died defending our freedom and democracy.”     — Congressman Doc Hastings

On Memorial Day – Monday, May 28th –  we pause and remember the brave women and men who have made the ultimate sacrifice while protecting our freedom and fighting for their country.

PRIDE Industries’ mission is to create jobs for people with disabilities – this includes veterans. Our programs and services help veterans with physical, emotional, and mental scars which create obstacles to employment and self-sufficiency. PRIDE also provides opportunities for individuals who have difficulty rejoining the workforce. On this Memorial Day, we welcome our returning veterans and honor our fallen heroes.

To all, a joyful and safe Memorial Day.

Spotlight On: PRIDE’s Woodland, CA Employment Services

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HELPING OTHERS

Our Woodland Employment Services Center is a small office with one Job Developer and three Job Coaches that services Yolo County, CA. Despite their small size, the team has created a huge impact in the community; for the last two years they have served more than 90 job development clients, provided 500 hours of job coaching and placed more than 50 people in employment. With funding made possible by generous donations to PRIDE Industries Foundation, they also create opportunities by offering paid internships to qualified individuals with disabilities looking to start their careers. Below are two stories of successful job placement:

JOHN CURTIS:

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“Employment has changed my life for the better. The opportunity to help my clients with disabilities succeed in employment motivates me every day.”

As a PRIDE Industries Job Coach, John Curtis helps clients with disabilities by providing coaching and training. John works very closely with each client to ensure they are successfully placed, starting with the intake process through their first weeks of employment preparation and following along after assisting the client in securing employment. He also maintains accurate case notes, reports throughout the process, and provides offsite job coaching, external situational assessments, vocational assessments and PVSA services.

What helps make John so successful at his job is his ability to relate to his clients’ experience – navigating a job search while having a disability. In 2016, John experienced a back injury; this disability and a lack of work experience (after recently obtaining his high school diploma) created obstacles to finding work. Seeking help, he contacted the Department of Rehabilitation, which referred him to PRIDE Industries.

After completing an ESA (External Situational Assessment) in 2017, to determine his job skills and interests, John started a paid internship at PRIDE’s Woodland, CA Employment Services Office. “John is a wonderful addition to our Woodland team,” says Job Developer Tara Vittone. “He learned so much in such a short period of time and occasionally helps solve our computer problems!” Just three months later, John was offered a permanent position with PRIDE.

In less than two years, John accomplished two major goals: completing his high school education and obtaining a full-time, meaningful job at PRIDE Industries. He plans to attend college to grow his career and aims to purchase his own home.

AREN SCARDACI: 

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Aren struggled to find a full-time job that utilized his educational background. To jump start his career, he was referred to PRIDE Industries in late 2016.

With the extra help, Aren was able to extend his job search. “PRIDE’s staff was very supportive, and they helped me refine my employment soft skills while accommodating for my disability,” says Aren. “PRIDE works very hard to find their clients a job that fits their skills and background.”

To strengthen his resume, Aren was offered an internship with the Woodland Office in 2017. As an intern, he assisted with facilitating Job Club and working one-on-one with other PRIDE clients seeking employment. “Coaching other individuals allowed me to gain communication and practical skills that continue to help me today,” says Aren. His Job Developer also helped place Aren in a clerical volunteer position at the local United Way to continue to diversify his skills.

All the hard work finally paid off; in October 2017, Aren interviewed and was hired as a Computer Learning Center Coordinator job at Yolo County Housing. In this position, he helps youth residents use the computer lab, assists with homework and class material and leads educational activities. “

“This job is a perfect fit for me,” says Aren. “I enjoy sharing my outdoor education background with the residents. We recently conducted a scavenger hunt of California state parks using Google Maps.”

“I’m thankful for all the care and support from PRIDE’s staff. Employment has given me greater independence, and I am enjoying my new career. I also hope that my story can be used to encourage others with disabilities who are struggling to find employment.”

A Step Forward

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With drive and determination, John Almeda works to accomplish his goals; he is thriving at a job that he enjoys and is training towards his dream of competing in the Boston Marathon. John has completed half marathons, 20-mile races and most recently the 2017 California International Marathon (CIM). Despite an injury, he persevered and finished in 4 hours and 27 minutes!

These achievements have not come without challenges; John is on the Autism Spectrum (ASD) and is non-verbal. Around 30 percent of people diagnosed with ASD are considered “non-verbal” according to a study by Boston University; however, some non-verbal individuals can communicate with written or typed language. Furthermore, young adults with autism are less likely to be employed or to be enrolled in higher education than other young adults without autism.

Fortunately, after finishing his high school transition program in 2017, John was referred to PRIDE Industries’ Autism Employment Program. The program trains and places individuals with Autism in the Sacramento, CA region senior care services jobs at Eskaton (a nonprofit community-based senior care organization). Employees serve as companions and aides to residents of long-term care facilities and assist the nursing, dining hall and maintenance staff while receiving support from PRIDE Job Coaches. This is made possible through a collaboration between the California Conservation Corps and the PRIDE Industries Foundation.

John started his job at Eskaton in August 2017. To help him learn job tasks and overcome communication barriers, John was provided training and job support by his mother, Vanessa Bieker and a PRIDE Job Coach, Sandra Ogawa. Soon, he was working independently with little support, serving his customers with his enthusiasm and friendly smile. John is also able to independently take ridesharing services to work.

“John takes great pride in his work and has been given additional responsibilities as his skills have progressed,” says Rehabilitation Services Manager Michelle Anderson.

“With the money that he earns from his job, John is starting to support himself, including purchasing all the specialized clothing and shoes needed for running,” says Vanessa Bieker. “He enjoys his independence and the ability to socialize with his friends at work and is grateful for the opportunity.” We look forward to seeing John grow in his career and eventually reaching his Boston dream. Congratulations!

To learn more about John and his passion for running, watch this video.

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April: Autism Awareness Month

For almost 50 years, April has been designated as Autism Awareness Month. A month-long celebration and a nationwide effort to promote autism awareness, autism acceptance and increase attention to those affected by autism.

What is Autism
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a complex developmental disability. Symptoms typically appear during early childhood and is usually a life-long condition that affects a person’s ability to communicate, socially interact with others and can include repetitive behavior.

Statistics
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that 1 in 68 children are impacted by ASD. Thirty-five percent of young adults (ages 19-23) with autism have not had a job or completed secondary education. Studies have shown that steady employment can help ease symptoms and improve functioning in daily living. Individuals with ASD can often make excellent employees due to their careful attention to detail and quality of work. They just need to be given the opportunity.

How PRIDE Can Help
PRIDE Industries is committed to aiding adults with disabilities lead independent and fulfilling lives – by providing an opportunity, something many take for granted — the chance to be employed and contribute to the community. To learn more about PRIDE’s People Services, click here.

A New Start

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A job means so much more than a paycheck – it provides meaning, self-esteem and a chance to learn skills. MaryHelen Ceballos is an employee at PRIDE’s Fort Bliss TX contract. With support and accommodations, she is thriving in her job.

“My life has not been easy due to my disabilities,” says MaryHelen. “I became hard-of-hearing when I was five years old. During school, I unexpectedly lost about half of my hearing in my left ear and was left only with a loud buzz in my right ear. Despite multiple MRI’s, CAT scans, blood work – my doctors had no explanation for my hearing loss. It was devastating.”

Despite her hearing loss, MaryHelen’s mother continued to enroll her in a non-deaf school. Unfortunately, this was not always a welcome environment. “My teachers did not understand how to help a hard of hearing child,” says MaryHelen. “Many doubted I would even graduate high school. Since I was different than the other children, I struggled to make friends.”

Through perseverance, MaryHelen overcame many challenges and excelled academically, participating in speech pathology classes to improve her communication skills. “My proudest moment was when I graduated high school with several scholarships to college,” says MaryHelen. However, the poor treatment that she had received discouraged her so much that MaryHelen declined her college acceptance and found work as a grocery store cashier.

Disability can strike at any moment – MaryHelen was injured while working and needed back surgery. “My employer refused to accommodate my disabilities,” says MaryHelen. “Despite the fact that my doctor had not yet cleared me for work and that I needed to use a walker and attend physical therapy, I was immediately terminated after a week of leave.” After my dismissal, I applied for job after job. No employer would hire me due to my back injury and the accommodations needed for me to hear others on the job. I felt lost and alone.”

To get back on a career path, MaryHelen went back to college to get her certificate in sign language while searching for new employment. Fortunately, a friend suggested that she apply for a job at PRIDE Industries. “I found out that most of my hard of hearing and deaf friends worked there. I wanted to be part of PRIDE’s mission to create jobs for people with disabilities,” says MaryHelen. After interviewing twice, she was hired in July 2016.

“I was happy for the first time in several years since my back injury. Working for PRIDE has changed my life drastically. For the first time in my life, I am not ashamed to be hard-of-hearing, and I get the help I need at work. I feel like I have been given a second chance.”

At Fort Bliss, MaryHelen works as a clerk for the Electrical, Fire Alarms and Environmental shops in support of PRIDE’s military customer. To help her succeed at her job, she was provided a telephone with a volume booster, as well as a lift desk and lumbar chair. ASL interpreters and job coaches are available to help with translation when needed.

“Since starting at PRIDE, MaryHelen has done very well in the Service Order Desk department. She is a quick learner, very organized and follows all processes precisely,” says Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor Ronda Davenport.

“Everyone is friendly here, I love my job and the people I work with,” says MaryHelen. “We truly function as a team and take care of each other. I couldn’t ask for more in a job position.”