Veterans Salute – David

Soldier in the office

In search of an opportunity to make a difference, David (last name withheld) joined the U.S. Air Force fresh out of high school in 1983. “This was my first real job besides working at a local restaurant as a busboy, while growing in Temple City, CA. I saw joining the military as a chance to serve my country and to help keep people safe.”

After enlisting, David attended basic training at Lackland Airforce Base in San Antonio, TX and graduated as an Airman Basic (E-1). Then after completing 12 weeks of specialized training, he joined the 88th Strategic Air Command Missile Squadron as a Security Specialist. “It was a complete culture shock; I transitioned from a civilian with choices to a service member with a strict regimen and structure. They say you start as a rainbow, then become a green bean (once uniforms are issued) and finally get a haircut and now you are officially a canned green bean.”

David earned promotions throughout his service; from an Airman Basic (E-1), to Airman (E-2) and then Airman 1st Class (E-3). He served his remaining time at Francis E. Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne, Wyoming during the Cold War, providing security services and surveillance to Minuteman-3s nuclear warheads that were ready to launch in case of conflict.

In 1985, David was discharged honorably due to lack of war. “The transition back into civilian life was much easier than my development into an Airman. After being stationed on a remote base for so long, I enjoyed having more freedom. I also carried with me the discipline, time management and organizational skills learned from my time in the military.”

Despite his ease in transitioning to civilian life, David faced other challenges; he later received a dual diagnosis of both ADHD (Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder) and Anxiety Disorder from the Veterans Administration (VA) in 2003. Nearly 40 million Americans (18%) experience Anxiety Disorder; ADHD affects around 4% of American adults. Both disorders cause lack of concentration and racing thoughts, which can impair everyday life.

“Before joining the service, I had never received any treatment for these conditions. Despite having these undiagnosed disabilities, I persevered and graduated from Tech school with a score of 98% when many of the course instructors doubted my ability to graduate.”

“While looking for civilian work, I continued to struggle with my communication skills. When I could not manage my anxiety, this would lead to outbursts and growing frustration with coworkers and employers. I was eventually able to use the tools and resources acquired in the military to cover up my disabilities and find a variety of jobs, including work at a grocery chain, acting and selling real estate.”

After receiving foot surgery in 2017, David had an accident and obtained mobility-related disabilities. While looking for work that would be a good fit and that would accommodate his disabilities, David was referred by his VA Representative at the Jewish Vocational Services to PRIDE Industries in Spring 2018. After interviewing, he was hired as a Service Order Dispatcher at PRIDE’s LAAFB contract site in May 2018.

“This job is perfect for me,” said David. “I like the challenges that come with solving different work orders at the customer service desk. Working at LAAFB, I interact with a wide variety of customers – from civilians all the way up to the Secretary of the Air Force.”

“The comradery at PRIDE is strong; my team treats each other like family and are very accommodating, especially with allowing supports for my disabilities. Job Coach Brandon Whatley and Araceli Gutierrez helped me transition to my new role and taught me other skills to help me succeed at my job.”

“It’s different, but a pleasant and familiar experience being back on a military base, especially now that I am receiving treatment for my ADHD and Anxiety; I understand all the protocols and acronyms. It’s exciting to have a career with room for advancement and new possibilities where I do not need to hide my disabilities.”

“If there were one piece of advice I could give to today’s transitioning veterans, it would be to seek out help from veteran support groups and services. The benefits provided today are far better than those offered at my time of discharge; however, it saddens me to know that many veterans do not receive enough training on how to maximize their benefits; seeking adequate treatment can be life-changing.”

Where Are They Now

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM). NDEAM brings the issue of employment for people with disabilities to light. Individuals with disabilities face unemployment at nearly four times the rate of the general population. This stubborn statistic is not due to lack of interest or skills – but a lack of opportunity.

Last October, we introduced a group of women who participated in the “Presenting Yourself Positively in an Interview,” makeover event. The event exclusively supported job seekers with disabilities.

Seven women enrolled in PRIDE Industries’ Supported Employment Program received makeovers. The event served a diverse group of women from all walks of life, each with unique obstacles and stories.

We followed up on their progress, and here we share with you:

Alysha

PRIDE Industries Success Story AlyshaAfter participating in the makeover event, Alysha got a boost of confidence and soon after landed a job. We are happy to report that in December 2014, Alysha joined PRIDE Industries’ custodial team ensuring that the Sacramento International Airport’s Terminal B is sparkling clean.

Alysha has an anxiety disorder. Although there were many disability-related challenges, Alysha made an effort to pursue self-sufficiency and independence.

When asked how life is different now, Alysha replies: “I do not spend so much time in my room, or look for other ways to avoid interacting with people.” Working at the airport has also helped Alysha overcome her anxiety.

More about Alysha’s journey, click here.

Ashley

PRIDE Industries _ Ashley02Employment success often follows a windy path for individuals with disabilities. Ashley has, not one, but multiple challenges. She has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and Asperger’s – an autism spectrum disorder. She has attention-deficit hyperactivity, depression and anxiety and mood disorders.

Despite the challenges, Ashley never gave up. Soon after the makeover event, she landed a retail job. While the job was only seasonal, it was a great learning experience and a step forward on her journey.

Now, Ashley is a courtesy clerk with the locally headquartered grocery chain, Raley’s. Working at the grocery store provides a welcome environment where she sees the potential for a long-term future.

More about Ashley’s success, click here.

Pamela

PRIDE Industries WeaveWorks Sacramento _ Pamela 03Pamela has a learning disability. Because of her disability, her search for work was fragmented over four years.

At the time of the makeover event, Pamela was a volunteer at a thrift shop. Soon after, she landed a paid internship at WeaveWorks Recycled Fashion in Sacramento. Pamela earned the internship through PRIDE Industries’ Employment Services Program.

She excelled in the internship and WeaveWorks offered her a permanent position. At WeaveWorks, Pamela assists the receiving team and is a valuable asset to the group.

More about Pamela’s journey to employment success, click here.

Four more women received makeovers as part of their employment journey. One is thriving as an in-home care provider. A second recipient volunteers with a local hospital and hopes it will translate into regular employment. Two remain unemployed. One continues to pursue an opportunity in the insurance field; the other put the job search on hold due to disability-related setbacks.

For 49 years, PRIDE’s mission has been to create jobs for people with disabilities. We know that disability does not mean inability and that employment builds confidence, self-reliance, and dignity. The path can be long and full of twists and turns. For some, it can take a few months; for others it could take years. However, when a person with disabilities becomes gainfully employed, we know that opportunity will greatly impact him/her and those around them.

Pamela, Ashley, and Alysha are just a few of our countless successes. We look forward to following all of the women along their paths and will continue to cheer them on.

A New Life Chapter

PRIDE Industries Success Story Alysha

“When I was little I was extremely outgoing and you could not get me to stop. I loved crowds,” says Alysha Seadorf, 24, a PRIDE Industries employee providing custodial services at the Sacramento International Airport – Terminal B. “I do not remember exactly when that stopped.” Alysha has an anxiety disorder.

Anxiety disorders are a group of mental illnesses that cause people to feel excessively frightened, distressed, or uneasy during situations in which most other people would not experience the same feelings, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). According to NAMI, anxiety disorders are the most common mental health concern in the U.S, affecting 40 million adults in the United States. Furthermore, most people develop symptoms of anxiety disorders before age 21, and women are 60% more likely to be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder than are men.

It was in middle school when Alysha first noticed a change; she would get more and more anxious and preferred to be alone. Alysha explains, “I would spend as little time as I could at school.” The older she got, the more time she spent indoors hiding in her room to avoid interaction with others – including her family.

Anxiety disabilities can include panic disorder, phobias, post-traumatic stress, generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Left untreated, individuals can take extreme measures to avoid triggers and anxiety, such as refusing to leave their home and finding themselves unable to work.

Although it was difficult to take the first steps toward self-sufficiency and independence, Alysha made an effort to find employment.  For two years, she applied for numerous job openings with no results. Eventually, Alysha connected to PRIDE Industries through the Fair Oaks Department of Rehabilitation. Alysha then began working with a PRIDE job developer and attended Job Club meetings.

Job Clubs provide an opportunity for individuals to gain hands-on interviewing and job-seeking practice. Enrollees gain job etiquette skills and receive help in conducting a job search and other employment- related training.

“There were a few things covered that I already knew, but I did not realize that I was doing a lot of it wrong,” says Alysha. “I did not realize how much body language was part of getting the job.”

With a few tweaks to her resume and equipped with the do’s and don’t’s of job searching, Alysha landed a job. In December 2014, Alysha joined PRIDE Industries’ custodial team ensuring that the Sacramento International Airport’s Terminal B is sparkling clean.

The first few weeks on the job were challenging; due to the holidays she had to deal with masses of people going through the airport. “Alysha was shy and quiet in the beginning; she would get stressed out very quickly,” says Karen Long, Alysha’s supervisor. “But after a few weeks, she was excited and eager to learn. She had opened up and was happy and bubbly.”

Before, large groups of people and interaction with passengers could cause anxiety and stress for Alysha, but that is no longer the case. “I can deal with the crowds now; I do not freeze up when somebody randomly talks to me,” she says. Working at the airport has also helped Alysha overcome her anxiety about flying, her fear of heights and wariness of large groups of people. She is looking forward to her summer trip to Florida; it will be her first flight in over ten years.

When asked how life is different now, Alysha replies: “My relationship with my dad and stepmom has improved. I do not spend so much time hiding in my room, or look for other ways to avoid interacting with people.”

Additionally, Alysha has made efforts outside of work to overcome her anxiety disorder, getting the support and treatment needed to work through her triggers. According to the American Journal of Psychiatry, effective medication or talk therapy treatment have been shown to improve the quality of life for many patients.

Progress with her anxiety disorder is helping in other ways. “I have been spending a lot more time with my nieces and nephews, which is awesome,” says Alysha. “I went shopping all on my own, the other day. Shopping alone was something that was hard for me because going into a store and finding what I need was difficult with the amount of people that would be in the store.”

Alysha is not the only one noticing her vast improvement. “Alysha has come a long way from the shy girl to the talkative girl who gets excited telling a story,” says Karen Long. “I am very proud of all she has accomplished, and she is a great asset to my team.”

“I am proud of myself,” says Alysha. “So are my stepdad, my dad, and stepmom.”

Currently, Alysha is saving money to purchase a new car and is working on transitioning to full-time employment. Also, Alysha aspires to move out of her parents’ home to share an apartment with a friend.

For individuals like Alysha, a job means much more than a paycheck. Alysha has begun a new life chapter. We are proud to have Alysha on our team and are grateful she found a place with PRIDE Industries.

Learn more about anxiety disorders and treatment click here.