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

Smiling Asian businessman shaking partners hand

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: 

Aren

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.”

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 Ft. 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.

Unfortunately, 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 just 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 Ft. 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.”

Let’s Get The Job Done!

Employees who work at the Forward Operating Base (FOB), a secured military area used for tactical operations, are the unseen but essential support facility staff that help support our nation’s soldiers. Glen Smith, a carpentry lead at PRIDE Industries’ Fort Polk Louisiana site, has been an important part of the team for seven years.

Glen joined PRIDE in 2010 as a maintenance trades helper after being referred from Louisiana Rehabilitation Services. Through hard work, he was quickly promoted to the position of general maintenance worker within a year. Glen has an incredible drive to satisfy PRIDE’s military customer, and is consistently heard saying “Let’s get the job done!” when given an assignment.

A job brings more than a paycheck; through his work, Glen found purpose by encouraging his coworkers, especially those newly starting in the carpentry trade. With his excellent record and leadership, he was promoted again to carpenter in 2012 and carpenter lead in 2013.

Challenges related to his disability has never dampened Glen’s enthusiasm, and he has always sought to work. Glen suffered a stroke as a child, causing medical defects to his foot and ankle and partial paralysis on his right side. Unfortunately, he also later experienced two aneurysms which have affected his memory, as well as a heart attack in 2016. Nevertheless, Glen has recovered and returned to his job with great eagerness.

As a team lead, Glen is passionate about helping members of his team, especially people with disabilities. “My goal is to help our employees learn marketable skills so they can move up in their careers,” says Glen. “I also want to teach them to overcome setbacks and be proud of their accomplishments.”

Glen is a devoted worker that is always dedicated to improving his leadership and carpentry skills. “We are privileged to have him on our team!” says Rehabilitation Manager Sonja Matthews. “PRIDE at Fort Polk greatly appreciates the extra steps he takes to ensure the safety and success of our employees.”

Top 10 of 2017!

Hello 2018 – Happy New Year!

Thank you for your support, we appreciate those who visit, share, and comment on the stories we share through this blog. As 2017 ends, we welcome 2018, and we look back at the posts our readers liked and shared the most throughout 2017.

Below you will find the top ten blog posts published by PRIDE in 2017, based on views, visits and shared stats.




10. Grit, Determination and Motivation





09. Veteran's Salute - David Daniel






08. A Positive Attitude






07. The Journey is Only the Beginning





pride industries employee at fort bliss going up ladder, HVAC tech


06. Macular Degeneration and the Workplace







05. Access to Advance in The Workplace






04. Veteran's Salute - Vernon Alcorn






03. Career After the Military







02. An Opportunity for Advancement






01. Worth the Effort



Again, thank you for your support throughout 2017 and we look forward to sharing many more profiles of employment success in 2018.

 

 

Invisible Disabilities and the Workplace

Autumn dawn in forest

56 million people in the United States have a disability. Some disabilities are more visible than others, especially if the individual relies on a wheelchair or walking cane. But others, known as “invisible” disabilities, are not. People who live with invisible or hidden disabilities also face challenges in the workplace and in their communities, which can make daily living more difficult.

Defining invisible disability:

In simple terms, an invisible disability is a physical, mental or neurological condition that limits a person’s movements, senses, or activities and that is invisible to the onlooker. Unfortunately, the very fact that these symptoms are invisible can lead to misunderstandings, false perceptions and judgment. For more information on invisible disabilities, visit: www. invisibledisabilities.org.

According to NPR.org, “It is hard to pinpoint the number of Americans with an invisible disability, but it’s estimated there are millions. Their conditions may range from lupus to bipolar disorder or diabetes. The severity of each person’s condition varies, and the fear of stigma means that people often prefer not to talk about their illnesses.”

Invisible disabilities in the workplace:

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires that reasonable accommodation be provided by an employer, if necessary, for all people with disabilities, whether hidden or visible. Unfortunately, if a disability is not visible or obvious, often people have difficulty understanding the need for accommodation, and some employees think coworkers are receiving favoritism.

There are myths and negative stereotypes that continue to exclude individuals with disabilities from the workplace despite their willingness and ability to work. For more information on myths and perceptions of hiring people with disabilities, click here.

Disclosing a disability:

In most cases, individuals would choose to disclose a disability to request a reasonable accommodation. A reasonable accommodation allows an employee with a disability to do their job. It is the individual’s decision to disclose their disability if he or she can perform the essential job functions without accommodations. To learn more about hidden disabilities in the workplace, click here.

Adding value to the workplace:

Hiring people with – visible or invisible – disabilities is no different than hiring any other job candidate. All new hires need to become familiar with an organization’s management style and workplace culture. Working with agencies serving people with disabilities, including PRIDE Industries, brings the added benefit of comprehensive training and guidance to ensure success for employer, employee and new team members.

Recruiting qualified people with disabilities brings benefits far beyond filling a job opening, including low turnover, reduced training and recruitment costs, and a loyal and committed workforce. A 2007 DePaul University study noted low absenteeism rates and long tenures for workers with disabilities; participating employers described their employees as “loyal, reliable, and hardworking.”

PRIDE Industries published Ability Matters — a free resource guide created for businesses interested in learning more about employing people with disabilities. To download your free copy of Ability Matters, click here.

 

Veteran’s Salute – Kathryn Strawder

“After graduating high school, I had little experience but lots of ambition.” Kathryn (Kathy) Strawder enlisted in the U.S. Army in June 1995 to start a meaningful career with potential. “I enrolled as a Private, the lowest rank possible. The transition was rough; I felt like I made a huge mistake. However, the rigorous training was necessary to build us up.”

After Basic and Advanced Individual Training AIT training, Kathy joined the 17th Signal Battalion in Kitzingen, Germany. Throughout her career, she was stationed in Germany, Fort Hood, Korea, and Fort Bliss, including a deployment to Bosnia for a peacekeeping mission.

“In Bosnia, we dressed in full battle rattle (combat uniform). It was tough for my team, but we were always supportive and helped each other to get through the mission. I gratefully landed back in Germany after the deployment was over.”

With determination and drive, Kathy soon rose above the challenges. “When I was a young Specialist, I attended school to become a Non-Commissioned Officer. I received three awards, including the Commandant’s List (Honors Award), Iron Soldier, and Class A. After graduation, some female officers told me how proud they were of me for representing women in the force. I then went back to my unit and won Soldier of the Month.”

Kathy was promoted to Sergeant and enrolled in the Green to Gold Educational Program to attend St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, eventually rising to the rank of Captain. “I never forget that every contribution, no matter how small, contributed to the success of our team. The Army taught me important leadership skills including mentoring, resiliency, patience, and focus.”

“To this day, I’m proud to have served for over a decade in active duty and the Army Reserves. I wouldn’t trade it for anything!”

Kathy left the Army in 2009 to concentrate on her family. “The first six months after leaving were the most challenging – I felt like I had lost my identity. There were so many new things I had to get used to, including signing up for benefits and even picking out work clothes.”

“I still miss the Army, but I love the life that I have now. My advice to other veterans adjusting to civilian life is to have a plan, be open to new ideas and experiences and most importantly don’t give up.”

Kathy worked as a civilian within the military field until she was hired in 2014 at PRIDE Industries’ Fort Bliss  contract as Human Resources Director – helping manage employee relations for a small city of facilities experts that keep the base operational.

“It’s just a great opportunity to be part of this wonderful company,” says Kathy. “I can’t say enough how much I love my job. My son has Autism, and I can only imagine what the parents who started this company had in mind when they envisioned something better for their children. Just like the Army, I believe in PRIDE’s mission!”

Veteran’s Salute – David Daniel

“My dad served in the military for 30 years. He inspired me to join as well.” David Daniel served in the United States Air Force from 1984 to 2012, enlisting shortly after graduating high school.

“My transition to military life was slightly humorous. At basic training, you follow a strict regimen: when to get up, go to sleep, make your bed, fold your clothes and hang your uniforms,” said David. “Coming from a military family, I thought this was normal. I guess this helped me make squad leader!”

After his first overseas assignment to Guam, David was sent to Patrick AFB in Florida in 1990. Shortly afterward, he was sent to Kuwait for the Gulf War. “It was a surreal experience,” said David. “I packed up and said goodbye to my friends and family, and still couldn’t believe I was leaving.”

David served multiple tours throughout his time in the Air Force, including Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. “You realize that you are much more capable than you thought. I understood this especially during my deployment to Kandahar, Afghanistan; when my team was attacked.”

Through his dedication and exemplary work, David moved from Airman Basic (E-1) in 1984 to Chief Master Sergeant (E-9) in 2012. The Air Force led him all over the world including the Middle East, South America, East Asia and Europe.

Throughout his career, David has completed many roles in civil engineering, helping keep various bases safely running through times of conflict and peace. His bravery also earned him several awards and decorations, including the Bronze Star.

“I went to 19 countries – and loved them all,” said David. “However, my most memorable moment was a 2010 humanitarian deployment to Suriname. I was asked to lead a RED HORSE team (Rapid Engineer Deployable Heavy Operational Repair Squadron Engineers) to build medical clinics and schools. It was an incredible experience to create a positive impact.”

At the end of his career, David served as the Superintendent for the 87th Mission Support Group, Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey – acting as the principal advisor to the Commander on all enlistment issues for 3,911 personnel.

Although he had enjoyed serving in the military, David looked forward to a new beginning. “I officially retired on November 1st, 2012, serving a total 28 years, ten months and 14 days,” said David.

“I enjoyed my career, but it was the right time to end. Thankfully, PRIDE Industries offered me a position as the Operations Manager at the Ft. Bliss contract.”

Working in a familiar environment helped make his military transition easier. “My transition went rather smoothly,” explained David. “I moved from Joint Base Maguire-Dix-Lakehurst (JB-MDL), NJ to Ft. Bliss, TX and took off the uniform. I was also fortunate to have my Dad’s advice to know what to expect.”

In 2015, David joined PRIDE’s Western Currency Facility contract as the General Manager. He currently manages a team of 50 people, including those with disabilities and veterans. “I love that PRIDE gives people opportunities and confidence through employment.”

“Working for PRIDE has positively impacted my life, and I enjoy the ability to build teams who accomplish more than they ever imagined.”

Building a Rewarding Life

Bipolar disorder affects approximately 5.7 million adult Americans, or about 2.6% of the U.S. population age 18 and older every year, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.

Cecilia “Cecy” Marquez, is a PRIDE Industries employee at our Fort Bliss contract site in Texas. Cecy was diagnosed with bipolar disorder as an adult. The late diagnosis and an unsupportive support system contributed to an unstable employment track record, low self-esteem and an overpowering feeling of unproductiveness. In 2010, Cecy’s disability was exacerbated due to a tragic car accident that resulted in a PTSD diagnosis.

Lack of accommodations at work and immense anxiety hindered Cecy’s employment tenures. Before joining PRIDE, she hid her disability, not disclosing it to employers or co-workers. When daily stressors would become too much to cope with, she would resign.

It is natural for a mood to change or anxiety level to rise when a stressful or difficult event occurs. However, individuals with bipolar disorder may experience mood swings that are so severe and overwhelming that they interfere with personal relationships, job responsibilities and daily functioning. Bipolar disorder is a lifelong illness. Fortunately, effective treatment plans are available which usually combine medication and therapy.

In January 2016, Cecy was hired as a Service Order Dispatcher with PRIDE. “My management team and counselor provide helpful resources that I find enlighten my workday,” says Cecy.

Cecy is an asset to her team and department, as she continues to overcome roadblocks while providing great customer service. “Cecy enjoys taking calls and receives them with a smile,” Corina E Huerta-Coronado, Cecy’s Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor at PRIDE, says. “She believes that smiles carry through the phone lines and provides great service to the soldiers, techs and other personnel.”

Life is much different now for Cecy; she is gainfully employed, has a wonderful support system both at home and at work, and feels proud to be contributing to the community and soldiers at Fort Bliss.

“I love my job and that includes being a part of the Fort Bliss community,” says Cecy. “When I enter onto the base, I feel a sense of pride.”

Having a job is about more than a paycheck; it improves confidence, self-esteem, creates greater self-sufficiency and aids in building a rewarding life. For Cecy, her job has contributed to a once in a lifetime experience. “Because I am employed, I had the privilege of traveling on a pilgrimage to Rome and the Holy Land – Israel, last fall,” Cecy shares.

For individuals like Cecy, a job means much more than income. She is contributing to the community while continuing to grow and live her life. We are proud to have Cecy on our team and are grateful she found a place with PRIDE Industries.