Veteran’s Salute – Vernon Alcorn

While working on an Idaho ranch as a young adult, Vernon Alcorn decided he wanted a larger purpose in life. In 1994, he and a friend both decided to apply to the Idaho National Guard.

“The training was mentally challenging,” said Vernon. “However, I adjusted well and was excited to make the military my career.” After two years in the National Guard, he enlisted in the US Army as part of the 46th Engineer Battalion.

Vernon served 21 years in the Army, advancing from a Private E1 to First Sergeant E8. In 1998, he was sent to his first overseas deployment to Nicaragua for a humanitarian mission. Fast forward to 2003 – Vernon was part of the first army troops sent over for Operation Iraqi Freedom. He later went again for combat operations in 2008 – 2009, as well as to South Korea in 2013 for an operations support position and to a final deployment in Afghanistan in 2014.

Serving in the military gave Vernon an opportunity to become a leader and an effective team builder. His dedication and bravery won him many awards, including two bronze stars. “My proudest moment serving was the day I became a First Sergeant in Afghanistan,” said Vernon. “With this position came the responsibility of commanding 294 soldiers – the height of my career.”

After returning home from Afghanistan, Vernon was on track to become a Sergeant Major but decided to retire in 2015 while stationed in Fort Polk, LA. “I enjoyed my time in the Army and the camaraderie I had with fellow soldiers. However, as my kids got older, I wanted to spend more time with my family.”

Starting a new career at any time presents challenges; this is often compounded when applying military skills to civilian positions. Like many veterans, Vernon struggled with making the career transition between soldier and civilian. “I applied to several jobs with very little luck. Most interviews went downhill after I had mentioned I was in the military. I went from a management position to an entry-level job to help support my family.”

Fortunately, Vernon kept searching for better opportunities and applied for a Quality Control Assistant Manager position at PRIDE Industries’ Fort Polk contract.

“From the start of my interview, I knew that this company was different. My prior work in the military was viewed as a positive aspect rather than something that I needed to hide,” said Vernon. He was hired in 2016 and shortly afterward was promoted to the Forward Operating Base/Range Facilities Manager.

“My job at PRIDE gives me purpose as a civilian,” says Vernon. “The Army never leaves you, and I enjoy being able to support the training on Fort Polk in a civilian capacity. It makes a positive impact on my life being able to work with people with disabilities and see their accomplishments. One of my children has a disability, and I know how important it is to have opportunities to enter meaningful careers with room for advancement.”

In his tenure at PRIDE, Vernon has become a valued team member. His advice for other veterans transitioning from the military is “Be prepared for change – I worked my way to the top and had to start all over again. Understand that a lot of companies won’t know what your job role is or your skills. Go in with an open mind.”

A Believer of PRIDE’s Mission

Pictured (L to R): Roy Hightower and William Myers

Pictured (L to R): Roy Hightower and William Myers

Disability – when it affects us – is usually not a one-time event in our lives. It is a journey – often with bumps and set-backs along the way. William Myers, 44, a General Maintenance Worker at PRIDE Industries’ Fort Polk, LA contract, is determined not to let those slow him down. He shares his story below.

In 2005, William had his right leg amputated, an experience that changed the course of his life. Recovery was not easy. He was no longer able to work in physically-demanding fields such as roofing and carpentry where he once excelled. In 2011, William lost his job and spent 2.5 years unemployed, searching and receiving social security benefits. During this time, William struggled to provide for his family – an experience that affected his sense of self-worth. Despite his tireless efforts to land a job, William was unable to find any job as employers focused on his disability instead of his potential.

In 2013, William connected with PRIDE Industries and got the break he needed. William began working as a Grounds Maintenance Laborer on PRIDE’s contract providing base wide operating support services to Fort Polk, LA. He quickly excelled, earning a promotion to Maintenance Trades Helper in the HVAC shop. Life was good, and things were going his way until he suffered a medical complication which required surgery. In April 2014, William had to take a leave of absence from work to recover. For many, this second blow might mean a return to long-term unemployment. However, following his recovery, William was able to return to PRIDE. Today he is a General Maintenance Worker in the interior electric shop.

“Since working for PRIDE, my financial situation has improved significantly,” William says. Having a job is about more than a paycheck for him. Working at PRIDE Industries has improved his confidence, self-esteem, and helped William to be self-sufficient once again. Most importantly, he can provide a better life for his two-year-old daughter. That, to William, is priceless. His daughter is his biggest motivation and the reason he gives 110% on the job and in life. William is currently saving to buy a home and to set up a college fund for her.

PRIDE’s rehabilitation counselors at Fort Polk attest to William’s dedication on the job and in overcoming challenges. Customers and military personnel at the base notice William’s work ethic as well. “PRIDE has helped me gain confidence and pride in myself,” says William. “I am a true believer in PRIDE’s mission!”

Individuals like William inspire us; we are glad that he is part of the PRIDE Industries family.

You’ve Always Had The Power

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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!

Stephen’s Story

Escuela Militar

Stephen Williams is a service disabled veteran that served in the US Army from 1991-1993. Originally from West Virginia, Stephen settled down in Louisiana after completing his last station of duty at Fort Polk.

After leaving the military, Stephen attempted to find a full-time position with various construction companies. Despite his motivation and eagerness to work, he found it challenging to obtain long-term employment since none of the companies he worked for would provide accommodations for his disability. Stephen had been injured during his military service, and now has difficulty walking and standing for a long time.

Determined to reach his goal and find an employer that would not view his disability as an obstacle, Stephen turned to Louisiana Rehabilitation Services for help; they referred him to PRIDE Industries. Stephen became a PRIDE employee at Fort Polk in October 2010.

Stephen first began as a Maintenance Trades Helper in the HVAC shop. Due to his hard work and motivation, he was promoted to a General Maintenance Worker (GMW). His current duties include maintaining and repairing AC and heating units, replacing filters and exhaust fans, and responding to various work orders called in by military personnel at Fort Polk. Stephen attends to his work with great enthusiasm. According to PRIDE job coach Jaccara Sandanski, he has received several positive comments from military personnel on the quality of his work and reliable punctuality.

Stephen enjoys his job and especially feels proud that he gets to contribute to the well-being of the soldiers on base. Stephen says, “When I was in the military, everybody worked hard for us. I feel that I have a duty to pay it back.” He appreciates that his fellow PRIDE employees also share the same attitude and provide great service to the troops at Fort Polk every day. “That’s why we are here, to be supportive for our soldiers.”

To help our employees with disabilities overcome challenges, PRIDE provides accommodations, job coaching, and counseling. To accommodate his disability, PRIDE installed a step ladder on Stephen’s work truck, which makes it easier for him to drive around base to complete service orders. He also receives support from PRIDE’s rehabilitation counselor and job coach, Sonja Matthews and Jaccara Sandanski. According to Sonja, “Stephen took a proactive role in identifying his disability related challenges at work, and successfully overcame these obstacles with a few modifications made to his vehicle.” This type of support system has helped our employees with disabilities thrive and reach their full potential; or, as Stephen puts it, “Prove to myself that I could do anything that anyone else can.”

Stephen is looking to his future now. In order to advance his career skills, he has taken the NCCER (National Center for Construction Education and Research) core course available to PRIDE employees at Fort Polk. NCCER creates curriculum and assists in program development to foster construction training. Training is tailored to our employees with disabilities employing a variety of techniques including visual aids and field trips. Stephen desires to use this training to further his career aspirations; his new goal is to be promoted from a GMW to Boiler Tender when a position becomes available.

Now that Stephen is on a successful career path, his next personal goal is to purchase a home for his family which includes two children, a nephew, and a grandchild. According to Stephen “Life is short; strive for all of your goals to the best of your ability. Never settle!”

Stephen’s story is another example of how people with disabilities can thrive in the workplace with proper accommodation and supports.

Our Best Wishes and Congratulations!

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Most companies hate to see good employees leave, but when one of our own has gained the skills and confidence necessary to seek employment in the community, we call that a success.

Since April, 2011, Raymond Massie worked at PRIDE Industries’ Fort Polk site.  Hired as a general maintenance worker in the carpenter shop, he quickly displayed his expertise and was promoted to Carpenter in January 2012.

Raymond is deaf, but refuses to allow his disability to interfere with his goals. All he needed was the opportunity to prove himself. During his tenure at PRIDE, he was recognized by both the military and his peers. He received several positive ICE comments – observations or remarks that individuals, civilian or military, can make in response to service they receive on a military base. Raymond was also recognized as the Most Improved Employee for July-September 2011 and was a member of the Shop of the Quarter team for October-December 2011.

“Raymond has the ability to do anything he is asked to do in the carpentry industry,” says his manager, David Stone. “He is a team player and goes out of his way to assist others.”

Raymond is leaving PRIDE Industries to pursue his career in the carpenter field. PRIDE provided a critical stepping stone to help him prepare for employment in the competitive marketplace. Our best wishes and congratulations to Raymond!

To read more about other successes at PRIDE click here.