Helping Expand Sign Language Education in the El Paso, TX Community

Melissa Cruz wordpress

American Sign Language (ASL) is a language involving signs made by moving the hands combined with facial expressions and postures of the body. It is the primary language of many Americans who are deaf or hard-of-hearing and estimated to be utilized by 250,000 – 500,000 people.

At PRIDE’s Ft. Bliss site in El Paso, TX, many employees are deaf and hard-of-hearing. To facilitate communication between all employees and our customers, PRIDE’s Rehabilitation team of Job Coaches, ASL Interpreters, and Rehabilitation Counselors is ready to translate from English or Spanish to ASL, as well as Spanish to LSM (Lengua de Señas Mexicana/Mexican Sign Language) when needed.

Working to help individuals in the El Paso, TX community who want to pursue a career in sign language interpretation, PRIDE’s Ft. Bliss Rehabilitation Department annually partners with El Paso Community College (EPCC) to host two sign language student interns in the spring. This opportunity allows future interpreters and communication support personnel to gain hands-on experience, learn vocational sign language and practice their counseling skills.

In November, EPCC invited PRIDE ASL Interpreter and Job Coach (and EPCC Alumna) Melissa Cruz to present a lecture on Specialized Vocabulary for the students attending EPCC’s Sign Language course. Before joining PRIDE, Melissa worked in many different interpreting settings including post-secondary education, medical, mental health, and vocational trades.  She shared her insights on how to interpret on unfamiliar topics and/or specialized vocabulary (including vocational terminology), using her experiences in translating between employees and our military customer at PRIDE’s Integrated Facilities Management contract at Ft. Bliss. She received the following letter of appreciation from EPCC:

Thank you for partnering with the El Paso Community College Sign Language Interpreter Preparation Program on November 14th, 2018. I appreciate you taking the time to come in and share your experiences and knowledge with the students, who all left feeling inspired and energized. You taught our students how to acquire specialized vocabulary as a Sign Language interpreter, and they learned a great deal that they could immediately apply to their practice. It is indeed a gift when working interpreters come in to share their experiences and advice.

Thank you again for your time and energy in presenting to the interpreting students. It was truly my pleasure.”

“Hopefully my insight will give these students some preparation for an ever-changing profession,” said Melissa. “I’m so proud of where I work.”

PRIDE Industries is also proud to provide scholarships to students with disabilities enrolled in colleges and universities in specific areas where we operate, including EPCC.

Inclusion: National Disability Employment Awareness Month

National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) is an annual campaign that takes place each October. The purpose of NDEAM is to increase awareness about disability employment challenges and to celebrate the many and varied contributions of workers with disabilities. This year’s theme is “America’s Workforce: Empowering All.”

People with disabilities often face significant barriers to employment, resulting in lower rates of participation in the labor force and higher unemployment rates compared to non-disabled workers.

With a history spanning over 50-years, PRIDE Industries (PRIDE) is one of the largest employers of people with disabilities, nationwide. At PRIDE we focus on abilities rather than disabilities and our programs and services help individuals overcome obstacles to employment. Individuals from all walks of life come to PRIDE. We provide opportunities at all skill levels with a ladder of opportunity to help individuals achieve their definition of success and self-sufficiency.

Employment is essential to an individual’s sense of purpose, dignity, inclusion and economic growth, ultimately resulting in a happier life.

By partnering with PRIDE Industries, businesses can leverage its person-centered services including assessments, job skills development, training, placement, transportation, and on-going support to ensure long-term employment success. PRIDE places people in its business lines and provides support to individuals in community-based opportunities.

Won’t you join PRIDE Industries in creating jobs for people with disabilities? Speak to our expert staff by contacting us at info@prideindustries.com.

On The Road With Pride

Year after year wildfires are becoming more frequent and more extensive, especially in the West Coast. August and September were particularly busy months for PRIDE Industries Transit department due to their involvement in the community.

On average, PRIDE Transit provides more than 1,200 daily shuttle rides to individuals with disabilities – working at PRIDE Industries or in the community. Often, for people with disabilities, access to transportation is a barrier to employment, for more on barriers to employment click here. Transportation provides an essential lifeline for people with disabilities to connect with employment opportunities, skills development, vocational related services, and the community.

PRIDE Industries Transit has a fleet of 60 vehicles covering 52 routes each morning and afternoon. Three buses are based and operate in Yuba and Sutter Counties, 20 are based in Auburn that operate in the foothills of both Nevada and Placer Counties, the remainder are based in Roseville at PRIDE headquarters and operate in Placer and Sacramento Counties.

Accessible vehicles are not only essential for providing transportation for people with a wide range of disabilities but also senior citizens and those with mobility restrictions. As it was the case in early September when a wildfire threatened the safety of an elderly community in the Foresthill area in Placer County, CA. “A call came into transit dispatch from the Placer County Public Health Department, requesting buses for the possible evacuation of a senior citizen mobile home park in the area,” says Jeff Murray, PRIDE’s Transportation Manager. “PRIDE Industries Transit responded by dispatching seven drivers and vehicles to the command center staging area.”

PRIDE Transit vehicles are small enough to maneuver in rural areas and are equipped with mobility lifts. The vehicles allow for ease of loading and transporting individuals requiring mobility aid. During this evacuation effort, four of the seven shuttles along with their driver spent the night at the staging area ready for immediate emergency evacuation scenario. Luckily, no one had to be evacuated, and all the residents of the senior living community were safe.

Photo credit: BillyJean Vollman, a PRIDE Industries Transit Driver

Later the team received a heartfelt note from the Placer County Sheriff’s Office, “You don’t know what a relief it is having you here. We didn’t know how we were going to get all those people out of there until you showed up.”

PRIDE’s Transit team is committed to providing outstanding service to the community and participates in the Placer County Mass Evacuation training. In recent years, the team has assisted in other evacuation efforts along with participating in community events such as the 1st Annual Association of the US Army (AUSA) Veterans Business Forum.

 

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.

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!

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: 

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 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.”

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.”