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.”

A New Start


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.”

Building a Successful Career


“Working at PRIDE has helped me accomplish my goals and brought me professional success.”

Julio Hinojosa is a young adult with a borderline intellectual disability that has earned a successful career with PRIDE Industries. Approximately 6.5 million people in the United States have an intellectual disability, which occurs when a person experiences limitation in cognitive functioning and problem-solving. These individuals have a harder time finding employment options and participate in the labor force at about half the rate of typically developing adults. However, given the right environment and support, people with intellectual disabilities can fulfill needed career positions and make excellent employees.

Julio graduated from a high school transition program that assisted students with disabilities to help find employment and learn independent life skills. As part of the program, he completed vocational training in electrical work, expressing interest in working in a technical field. With this preference, Julio was referred by the Department of Rehabilitative Services in 2011 to PRIDE Industries’ Ft. Bliss, TX facilities and maintenance contract – starting his career working as a Grounds Maintenance Laborer in the Roads & Grounds department.

Adjusting to a new trade was not always easy. Due to his disability, Julio struggled with problem-solving on the job and had difficulty using the correct writing to explain the work he performed on service orders. With help from his supervisor, coworkers and job coach, he learned how to write down his orders with accuracy and worked on maintaining concentration to finish assigned tasks on time.

“Julio is very shy,” says Rehabilitation Manager Shannon Bloxham. “He required a lot of guidance, but has learned by observation and hands-on training – improving his confidence and skills.”

Within this supportive environment, Julio continued to advance in his career. He was promoted to Maintenance Trades Helper in the Electrical department in 2014 and later to General Maintenance Worker in 2016. Furthering his expertise, he entered the Independent Electrical Contractors (IEC) Apprenticeship program and is now a year shy of finishing the four-year program. With guidance and mentorship from his coworkers, Julio passed his State Journeyman Electrician’s exam in 2017 and was promoted to Electrician.

Working for PRIDE not only brought career success but also carried over in Julio’s personal life. He recently got married and purchased his first home. “I enjoy the hands-on-work of electrical work and perfecting my craft while working in the welcoming environment at PRIDE,” says Julio. “Julio is a very hard-working employee and has shown dedication and ambition to get to where he is today,” says Shannon Bloxham.

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.”

Beyond the Stats: The Need


October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM), bringing the issue of employment for people with disabilities to light.

One in five Americans has a disability; more than 57 million people.  Individuals with disabilities represent the single largest and most diverse minority group; they 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 lack of opportunity. Unfortunately, not all employers realize the benefits that people with disabilities bring to the workplace. Unemployed people with disabilities represent a major, untapped source of qualified and motivated job candidates.

At PRIDE Industries, we shift the focus from disabilities to abilities, creating meaningful employment for individuals with a wide range of disabilities. Through training, job skills development, coaching and placement, individuals with disabilities – including veterans, youth leaving the foster care system, and those with developmental, intellectual, mental health, sensory or physical obstacles – can find success.

Employment success leads to other benefits:  increased dignity, confidence, and self-reliance for the individual – and peace of mind for their family and friends. Businesses win as well, with loyal and dedicated employees who approach their jobs with passion and enthusiasm. When individuals, families and businesses win – whole communities benefit.

At PRIDE, we know that a disability does not mean inability.  For more than 48 years, PRIDE Industries has been preparing people with disabilities for employment and more independent lives. PRIDE helps people move from dependence to greater independence with person-centered services including assessments, job skills development, training, placement, transportation, and on-going supports to ensure long-term success. We place people in employment in PRIDE’s own businesses, and support more than 450 individuals annually in community employment. But the need is so much greater.

How can you make a difference for individuals with disabilities?

  • If you are a business person, speak to our expert staff about hiring employees with disabilities in your business
  • Hire PRIDE and its employees for your business service needs
  • Support businesses that employ people with disabilities

Together we can change lives…one job at a time.


Congratulations Chance!

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In the first few years of life, hearing is a critical part of a child’s social, emotional, and cognitive development. Even a mild or partial hearing loss can affect a child’s ability to speak and understand language.

Hearing loss is a common birth defect, affecting about 1 to 3 out of every 1,000 babies. In some cases, hearing loss is caused by things like infections, trauma, and damaging noise levels, and the problem does not emerge until later in childhood.

Hearing is critical to speech and language development, communication, and learning. Hearing loss can cause delays in the development of receptive and expressive communication skills (speech and language); language deficit resulting in challenged academic achievement; social isolation and poor self-esteem. All of this can have an impact on vocational choices.


Chance Martin has been hearing impaired since he was a child. He attended the Oregon School for the Deaf in High School where he excelled and participated in sports including varsity football. He attended junior college in Folsom, CA and has had some retail experience. He reads lips and makes good use of technology and signing to communicate, but he found both communication and right fit challenging in the job market.

Chance was referred to PRIDE Industries where he began working in contract packaging and assembly. He earned a paid internship through PRIDE Industries Foundation, and was tapped for a part time opportunity providing call center service support on one of PRIDE’s contracts where he truly proved his value. Like many young adults, he takes to technology and systems quickly. Without hearing distractions, he was outperforming his peers and processing upwards of 150 service orders a shift. His workstation was physically located among our team members working on the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) project. They took notice of his work ethic and were clearly impressed with his results.

AOC.Edited 02

PRIDE Industries Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) staff

When the call center work ended, PRIDE’s team at AOC swooped in. On Monday, March 3, 2014, Chance became a full-time employee of PRIDE Industries, providing administrative support to the AOC team including data entry and document preparation among other duties. His technical skills are a huge plus for this data driven team – and he clearly fits right in!

Successes like Chance’s do not happen without great people behind the scenes. John Edwards, Job Coach, Tammie Weseman, Production Supervisor, Chris Schau, Case Manager, Diana Erickson, Rehab Services Manager, and Tony Capasso, Regional Contracts Manager. All played a role in creating the opportunity for Chance to shine.

Congratulations Chance! You earned it!

Spotlight On: Mitchell Worthington

Mitchell Worthington_edited_web

Getting on your feet while transitioning from high school has never been easy; finding that first “real” job, navigating through college courses, or living on your own has always presented unique challenges. However, for youths aged 18-21 on the autism spectrum, getting that first start can be even more daunting.

Mitchell Worthington is a young adult employed at PRIDE Industries’ Roseville facility with Asperger’s Syndrome (AS). Asperger’s is an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), a distinct group of complex developmental disabilities. Symptoms can range from very mild to severe, including difficulty with social behavior, communication deficits, fixated interests, and/or repetitive behavior. Studies have shown that continued employment can help ease AS symptoms and improve functioning in daily living. Furthermore, individuals with AS can make excellent employees due to their careful attention to detail and quality of work, and are often underutilized resources.


After graMitchell Worthington_edited_blogduating high school, Mitchell started looking for employment opportunities. His case worker at Alta Regional Center referred him to PRIDE Industries; he became an employee in October 2011. Mitchell was first placed in the electronics department, but he aspired to find a position that would better suit his interests. With help from his case manager Justin Underwood, Mitchell explored different job options. He was placed in PRIDE’s shipping fulfilment operation, where he helped to pull orders shipped domestically and internationally. Mitchell thrived in the position. “It is these expanding opportunities at PRIDE that keeps me interested,” he says. “It allows me to learn and grow.” Justin describes him as a “real self-starter.”

When a landscaping position opened up at our Roseville facility, Mitchell stepped up to a new challenge. He arrives at the PRIDE campus at the crack of dawn, Monday through Friday. Despite the early start time, Mitchell has proved to be a reliable and motivated employee. In his new position he trims trees and shrubs and helps to keep the grounds in impressive shape, providing a beautiful welcome to guests and customers. He feels proud of what he and his co-workers have accomplished. “You wouldn’t think it…but man this place needed some cleanup,” Mitchell proclaims. “This should be good for business.”

He will soon have the opportunity to provide landscaping services at other PRIDE locations and is being trained on new landscaping tools and equipment.

When asked to describe himself, Mitchell says that he is “just like any other guy my age…I like shooting, hiking, and being outdoors.” Like many other young 20-somethings, Mitchell is starting to plan his future. With some job experience on his resume, he was able to get a part-time job at a local retail store. He currently lives with his family, but has set a goal of finding his own place and living independently. Mitchell is also enrolling in community college classes for the summer semester, and plans to explore a major in either mechanical or chemical engineering.

PRIDE is proud to employ and encourage people like Mitchell. Often, individuals with ASD just need the proper supports and a chance to prove themselves in employment. For Mitchell, employment provides the path to increased independence, self-sufficiency, self-esteem, and involvement in the community.

You’ve Always Had The Power

April is National Autism Awareness Month; we set aside this month to highlight the success of our employees. Meet Mason Carroll, a young adult working at PRIDE Industries’ Fort Polk facilities contract in Louisiana.

Mason began working as a Grounds Maintenance Laborer in early 2013. The opportunity to work for PRIDE Industries at Ft. Polk marks the beginning of Mason’s professional career – his first job. Although change and unfamiliarity are a challenge for Mason, he is aware of the obstacles it creates and he gets help to face them head on. Mason is quiet and extremely introverted, unless he is familiar with his surroundings. Despite his challenges, management had recognized Mason’s commitment, professionalism, and great work ethics. After completion of the probationary period, Mason became eligible for a promotion but he did not feel comfortable changing his work environment. After turning down the opportunity for a promotion Mason decided, he wanted more for himself. With the support of his counselor, job coach, and manager – Mason applied for the job promotion.

Mason is on the autism spectrum – he is diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome. Autism symptoms can range from mild to severe and can be difficult to manage. Traits can include difficulties in social environments, communication, and behavioral challenges. One of his challenges is adapting to change.

Convincing Mason to take the next step in his professional career was not easy. After months of encouragement and support, Mason applied for and received the promotion to Maintenance Trades Helper in the HVAC department at PRIDE Industries – Ft. Polk contract.

To those who work with Mason, it is obvious he is skilled, dependable and an asset to PRIDE; however, he had to overcome his own personal challenges before taking the next step. Nearly a year later, he is happy with his promotion and continuing to adjust to the change. “Everyone in his shop loves him and always gives him compliments,” Sonja Matthews, Mason’s counselor says. “He is really a great young man and an asset to PRIDE.”

The video below is a “beautiful duo from a father and daughter, we hear about how a family fought autism and came winning. A strong message of hope and fighting invisibility.”


PRIDE’s structured approach provides a support system that includes job trainers, case manager/counselors, and supervisors who understand each person’s disability and are able to help with their day-to-day challenges.

We are so happy for you; keep up the great work Mason!

Autism Awareness Month 2014

Autism Awareness Month 2014

April marks Autism Awareness Month, an entire month devoted to raising awareness about this disease. Autism is the fastest-growing developmental disorder causing significant social, communication, and behavioral challenges depending upon the severity. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), Autism affects 1 in 88 children, with a much higher incident rate almost five times higher in boys versus girls.

About 1 in 6 children in the U.S. had a developmental disability in 2006-2008, ranging from mild disabilities such as speech and language impairments to serious developmental disabilities, such as intellectual disabilities, cerebral palsy, and autism. However, the number of people diagnosed with autism could be reduced by nearly one third under new diagnostic criteria released last year. The Diagnosis Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) is a document of the American Psychiatric Association. The update made changes in how autism is defined – in particular, Asperger’s Syndrome, for which there is no longer a separate diagnosis definition. Some worry that individuals who would previously have been qualified for a diagnosis will be left out. Without a diagnosis, children may not qualify for needed services – when early intervention makes such a critical long-term difference.


Although symptoms and their severity vary widely, the majority of young adults with autism spectrum disorder don’t go to college, which impacts their employment options. This year alone, 50,000 adolescents with autism will turn 18. But for people on the high-functioning end of the autism spectrum, high-tech jobs can be a perfect fit. They may flourish at engineering-type tasks or computer design, where their interaction with people is somewhat limited and an extreme focus on detail is a highly valued quality.

Autism Awareness Month 2014 high tech jobs

While PRIDE has been integrating people on the spectrum into our workforce for years (electronics manufacturing in particular), some large commercial companies are catching on, read more about it. More and more companies are learning that matching unique talents to the right jobs can provide a competitive advantage in addition to meaningful employment. PRIDE assistance in preparing these individuals for competitive employment opportunities includes development of an in-school training program that focuses on the abilities of this unique population. We are currently working with a private school in Sacramento on a pilot program that provides this training for transitional-aged students.

Collaboration enables jobs for people with autism, strengthening companies and improving people’s lives. If you know of a company that could benefit by employing the individuals we support, please email us at:  info@prideindustries.com.

Spotlight On: PRIDE’s Supported Employment Services

Support Services team

PRIDE Industries’ Supported Employment Services Northern California team.

Supported Employment provides a path for individuals with disabilities entering or re-entering the workforce. I frequently write for this blog, and wanted to learn more about the program, so I spent a day shadowing one of PRIDE Industries’ Job Developers, Caryl Balko.

I expected to find a formula. To my surprise, there is no one approach. Following is a recap of my day with PRIDE. To protect the privacy of those I observed, I will not use real names. But their stories had a very real impact on me.



The day started with a new client intake interview, the first formality in the getting started process. I met a young man, “Dave” and his father, “Dan.” Caryl asked a series of questions about Dave’s employment history, job interests, and basic personal information. The sum o f Dave’s employment history was volunteering at a family friends’ auto shop. Dave was very motivated to work and become more independent; landing a paid position would be Dave’s first job. Prior to the meeting, Caryl spoke with Dan to schedule an External Situational Assessment (ESA) for the following week.

An ESA is a paid two-week trial work period, which evaluates an individual’s readiness for working in the community. During the ESA period, a PRIDE Job Coach will oversee, assess, and evaluate the individual’s acceptance of directions, capabilities, and performance on the job, among other skills. The assessment helps to evaluate the strengths and abilities of an individual to ensure a good match for the employee and the employer.

The intake meeting took about one hour; Dave was excited to participate in the ESA and earn his first paycheck, hopefully on the road to full time employment.



Wherever available, Job Clubs provide a great opportunity for individuals to gain hands-on interviewing and job seeking practice. This includes job etiquette skills, a roadmap of the do’s and don’ts of job searching, and other employment related training.

Individuals that Caryl serves through the Supported Employment Program meet with their job developers on a weekly basis. Caryl and her group meet on Tuesdays. The group includes people of various ages, backgrounds and obstacles to employment – each with their unique story.

My visit provided an opportunity for additional practice. When I walked in, I saw a room with all seats full of well-dressed individuals, sported beaming smiles. We role modeled. I pretended to be the hiring manager. One by one, we shook hands, made eye contact, and they stated the position they were applying for. I thought they did perfectly! Call me a sucker, but if I could, I’d hire every single one of them! Unbeknownst to me, the group had recently discussed the importance of making a great first impression. They all passed with flying colors!

Some people come to Job Club seeking their first-ever employment. For others, this is a re-entry stepping stone to a second career after a disability diagnosis.

It doesn’t happen immediately. Some individuals “spark” as Caryl says – sooner than others. One woman, in particular, really stood out. Until this day, she had apparently attended – but not really engaged -with the group. She recently met a manager at a local store that she would love to work at; she introduced herself – and while she did not get the job, something in that opportunity inspired her to take control over her future. She arrived completely motivated to continue pursuing her goal of total independence.



As a job developer, Caryl attributes her success with job placement to on-going networking. She is a member of local chambers and other organizations. On the day of my visit, Caryl had a chamber luncheon to attend, so I joined. Attending these types of events provides Caryl with an opportunity to share PRIDE’s mission with local business owners and community leaders. It also provides an opportunity for placement! Later, Caryl explained that several individuals on her caseload are employed at the senior center where the chamber luncheon took place and are doing great on the job!



After the networking event, we rushed back to the office to observe an exit External Situational Assessment (ESA) meeting. This is a review of the two-week trial work period conducted with the individual, their coach and their Department of Rehabilitation case manager.

Here, I met “Larry,” and his mother, “Rose,” and several other individuals – Shanna Welch, PRIDE Industries Assessor/Job Coach and Larry’s DOR Case Manager.

During the meeting, Larry’s DOR Case Manager discussed the assessment, detailing job tasks, strengths and weaknesses from the trial work period. Prior to the ESA, Larry had gone through ten interviews without landing a job. Eventually he landed one, but the experience was awful. The ESA was exactly what Larry needed. Rose described Larry’s experience as “night and day”; it changed him. The ESA restored his self-confidence, motivating him to pursue long-term community employment. Larry’s DOR Case Manager will create a personalized plan. It includes the roadmap to community employment.

This is where each person’s path becomes highly unique.

The plan can suggest additional improvements such as vocational training, or learning to navigate the public transportation system. The plan is tailored to the individuals’ capabilities and goals. PRIDE’s Job Coaches are available to answer any questions and guide the individual on their journey. But each journey is different.



When I set out to do primary research for this post, I wanted to know the specific path traveled by PRIDE Industries’ Supported Employment Program participants.

To my surprise, there is no one-way. Each individual’s plan and path is custom-tailored to serve their unique needs. Each path includes skills assessment, identification of suitable employment matches, professional development, training, and on-going job coaching – but each journey is highly individual. No assembly line here.

Like everyone else, people with disabilities want a job, because employment opportunities provide increased self-esteem, sense of purpose, pride, and the dignity that come with a paycheck.

PRIDE Industries Supported Employment Services is currently serving more than 600 individuals with services available throughout Northern California including Auburn, Grass Valley, Placerville, Roseville, Sacramento, South Sacramento, Woodland, Yuba City, Fairfield, and Modesto locations.

To learn more about PRIDE’s programs, click here.


Thank you,

Catalina Figueroa

PRIDE Industries