Taking To The Road

PRIDE Industries Fort RuckerFor over three decades, John Pfander, Quality Control Manager at PRIDE Industries’ Ft. Rucker contract, has been a motorcycle enthusiast. Just about every weekend, you will find him riding in shows, charity events, parades, or as a member of the Patriot Guard Riders in Alabama.

In September, a co-worker who shares John’s biking enthusiasm joined PRIDE’s team in the Preventative Maintenance department. Allison presented John with a flyer for a ride that her friends were sponsoring called “Rolling Thunder Motorcycle Ride,” benefited the American Cancer Society “Relay for Life.” John was happy to join the ride, but Allison – who uses a wheelchair – had never been on a bike herself. John is a “can-do” kind of guy. He asked her to ride with him in the event, and without hesitation – she said “yes!”

On a beautiful Sunday in October, 2014, John met up with Allison and one of his Patriot Guard members. John and his buddy carefully picked Allison up from her wheelchair and put her on the motorcycle. And they were off!

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They were on the road with over 75 motorcycle riders and passengers. John and Allison were surrounded by experienced bikers and an accompanying trike – just in case. They rode over 100 miles in three and a half hours with five different stops. At each stop, Allison’s friends came out to cheer her on.

It was a great day traveling some of Alabama’s most beautiful roads. And Allison had the time of her life! We’re pretty sure it won’t be the last.

Happy New Year!

For nearly 50 years, PRIDE Industries has been guided by a single mission focus: creating jobs for people with disabilities.

All of us at PRIDE Industries appreciate the role our customers, partners, employees, friends, and supporters play in helping people with disabilities succeed. Your contributions and dedication make a meaningful difference in the lives of others.

As we reflect on the year, we asked PRIDE employees to share with us what their job means to them. The response was overwhelming. View below.

Thank you for your support throughout 2014, and best wishes for a wonderful New Year filled with opportunity for all.

Looking Back – And Forward

Whether you are born with a disability, or acquire one through illness or injury, overcoming initial everyday life hurdles is just the beginning. What fully connects us to each other and our communities is a job. Work is essential to an individual’s dignity, self-esteem and inclusion. Work is what PRIDE Industries makes possible – with your help – for those most often excluded from employment.

Devin03Thanks to your support and partnership, we can provide training and opportunity to those who have never been employed before – like Devin.  Working with our case managers to developing a plan, access supports and gain experience through a paid internship, Devin earned full-time employment at PRIDE Industries. The job challenges her to new levels and allows her to build relationships, expanding her confidence. The opportunity means as much to her family as it does to Devin: “Being part of a company that respects who Devin is and allows her to gain real life/work experience is invaluable,” says her brother, Chase Baker.

Cameron03With your help, we were able to significantly expand our Supported Employment program where individuals like Cameron move from working at PRIDE to working in the community. “If you motivate yourself with faith enough – you can achieve all that you have dreamed of,” says Cameron.

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With your partnership, we are able to support career advancement for individuals with disabilities through technical and trade skills training programs. When individuals graduate, they earn industry-recognized certifications that can advance wages and put people on the paths of their choosing. This includes Stephen, a service-disabled veteran who earned promotion after completing the training program and is on the road to much more. “Life is short; strive for all of your goals to the best of your ability. Never settle!” says Stephen.

Carlos at work_editedAnd, because you believe in the true capabilities of our workforce, we can offer a path back to employment for those displaced by disability. People like Carlos – who escaped horrific violence in his native country which cost him both legs – and nearly his life. Today, he and his family are safe and he is rebuilding with new skills learned at PRIDE.

You’ll find their detailed stories and much more through the links above. As we close one year and begin another, they – and countless more – are our inspiration to stay focused on our mission: creating jobs for people with disabilities. Thank you for joining us on the journey. We could not do it without you.

Beyond the Stats: The Need

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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.

 

Just Be Happy

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“You were created to succeed and move ahead towards your destiny – and at times you may feel unloved. But if you motivate yourself with faith enough- you can achieve all that you have dreamed of.” ~ Cameron Oates, Facebook post, 7/31/14.

Cameron, 24, begins each day with a positive and uplifting post on his Facebook page. By spreading a positive message and encouraging quotes, Cameron hopes to impact the life of others. His impact is felt at PRIDE Industries and beyond.

One morning, as Michael Ziegler, PRIDE Industries’ President and CEO, was coming to work, Cameron approached him. Cameron expressed his gratitude for having a job and being employed by PRIDE. “Thank you for giving me a good job. It was hard for me to get a job in the community,” Cameron says. We followed up with Cameron to learn more about his story.

Cameron is a young adult with developmental disabilities as a result of being born prematurely. He was born pre-term – as were his two sisters. They are triplets!

In 2012, Cameron began working at PRIDE’s Roseville campus as a hand packager. Eventually, he earned a promotion to PRIDE’s landscaping crew. The group is small and provides landscaping and grounds maintenance services to PRIDE’s Roseville and Auburn campuses, in addition to other community contracts. His group consists of two or three individuals with disabilities supported by their supervisor.

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His position with the landscaping crew allows Cameron to work more independently in the community and gain new skills. “I figured out how to switch out sprinklers, that is new,” Cameron says. He has learned how to use heavy equipment, work well with others and to be a responsible employee. The promotion is a great fit for Cameron; he has received great feedback on numerous occasions. “Cameron is always eager to work, has great attendance, and he is enthusiastic and friendly,” Ashley Bridge, Cameron’s Case Manager at PRIDE says. “He is always willing to try new tasks and gain new skills.”

When asked what his favorite part about working at PRIDE is he responded, “I like everyone’s smile here… seeing others smile, makes me smile. Positivity is the key to success,” Cameron says. The quote, which was passed down by his father, is one of his favorites. Although Cameron lost his dad when he was just five-years old, the quote made a great impact on his life.

Cameron plans to continue making others smile at work and in the world. Through his Facebook page, he has made many friends and influenced others. In particular a young girl from Tennessee; someone he had never met before. Cameron’s words of wisdom and positive attitude helped her to overcome a dark stage in her life and gave her hope and courage to continue with renewed strength.

Outside of work, Cameron uses his knowledge in fitness and nutrition to encourage his friends to live a healthy life and continue pursuing their fitness goals. Cameron earned a certificate in Fitness and Nutrition through Sierra College. In addition, during the school year he helps manage equipment and assist with technical music production during sporting events at Sierra College. As a young boy he recalls feeling left out. “I was made fun of a lot when I was younger,” Cameron says. “I was not allowed to play sports due to my disability.” Now, as an adult, he finally feels as though he is part of the team helping athletes at Sierra and contributing to the community at PRIDE.

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His message for you is: “Just be happy… like the Pharrell song.”

 

The Next Chapter

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“My sister is seriously addicted to work at @tweetsforPRIDE” ~ Chase Baker, Minnesota Vikings Defensive Tackle.

The twitter handle: @tweetsforPRIDE belongs to PRIDE Industries. Her brother, Chase, posted this message recently about his sister Devin, a PRIDE employee at our Auburn, CA location.

Transitioning from high school into the next chapter in life is a daunting task. Let alone, figuring out which path is best for a young adult with disabilities.

Devin West, 23, is one of those young adults who successfully made the transition and now loves her job at PRIDE.

During her last year of school, Devin showed interest in becoming employed and having a job. In early 2013, Devin began interning at PRIDE, as part of a managed transition plan to life after school. Through the paid internship, Devin gained vocational training and got a feel for what it meant to have a job. She loved the experience! “It is awesome to see her so devoted and motivated,” Chase says. During our interview, her father, John, shared a similar anecdote; the family practically had to beg Devin to take time off to join them on a family vacation. Devin never wants to miss a day of work.

In the summer of 2013, after completion of her schooling, Devin earned a promotion to a full-time employee at PRIDE Industries. She has loved every bit of her experience. Having a job has helped Devin mature and become more responsible. However, for Devin it also means making friends, contributing to her community and having a greater sense of independence.

“Focusing on my work,” is Devin’s favorite part of the job.  A job means trying new things, meeting new people, and getting out of her comfort zone. One of her work goals is to improve on her willingness to try new tasks. Over the last year at PRIDE, Devin has gained new skills and is now working on assignments that are more difficult. “Not only does PRIDE allow Devin to be part of a challenging and rewarding work environment, but it allows her to build relationships with her coworkers and those she interacts with,” Chase says. Both Chase and Devin’s father have seen a remarkable change.

Devin with her brother Chase.

A sister and brother selfie – Devin and Chase.

PRIDE is a special place for individuals – with and without disabilities – working, growing and developing career paths together. “Being part of a company that respects who Devin is and allows her to gain real life/work experience is invaluable as she gets older,” Chase says. “I know she wants to be independent and PRIDE Industries makes that a very real possibility.”

Having a job is about more than a paycheck, it enables individuals to mature, become more responsible, be more confident, and the list goes on. Bit by bit, Devin is gaining the necessary skills to be independent and be a contributing member of her community.  Helping individuals like Devin while working at PRIDE reminds us of the contribution we can make to others.

“Devin deserves to live a happy and rewarding life,” Chase says – and we could not agree more. Devin successfully transitioned to life after school and into a work environment. We look forward to continue seeing her develop as a young professional.

SPOTLIGHT ON: PRIDE Industries Youth Services Program

Pictured L to R: Andy Palmer, Amanda Cozington, Bethany Okusako, Mindy Tubra, Traci Hart and Dan Apgar

Pictured L to R: Andy Palmer, Amanda Cozington, Bethany Okusako, Mindy Tubra, Traci Hart and Dan Apgar

PRIDE Industries Youth Services Program helps teens and young adults overcome obstacles to employment – paving the way to a better future. PRIDE Youth Services is led by Mindy Tubra, and team members include: Amanda Cozington, Andy Palmer, Bethany Okusako, Dan Apgar, and Traci Hart. I wanted to learn more about the program, so I spent some time shadowing several Counselors/Job Developers.

I’ve written about foster youth interning at PRIDE headquarters, so I am familiar with this portion of the program. I thought that shadowing individuals in the staff team would give me a better understanding of the entire program and insight into the challenges of the individuals enrolled. What I learned was that the oft-used phrase, “it takes a village…” is especially true when it concerns at-risk youth and those leaving the foster care system.

The following is a recap of my time spent with the team.

 

FOSTER YOUTH

I attended a class at a Koinonia Group Home, taught by Andrew “Andy” Palmer, a PRIDE Youth Counselor/Job Developer. Koinonia group homes are highly structured, professional inpatient substance abuse treatment facilities for adolescents. Each individual is in recovery and their special needs are met through services provided by professional agency staff. Community agencies such as PRIDE’s Youth Services Program provide additional resources and services. PRIDE services are provided by the KEYS (Kaleidoscope for Employment of Youth Success) program, which provides employment services to emancipating foster youth with diagnosed disabilities.

Classes taught by PRIDE Industries Youth Services counselors are part of the teen’s recovery process. They are intended to help them build a foundation for a better future. Classes cover topics including: Money Smart, Relationship Building, Setting Boundaries, Drug and Chemical Education, and Vocational Readiness, which all focus on recovery.

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Andy Palmer teaching teens at a Koinonia Group Home

I attended a class on Healthy Relationships – a subject most parents discuss with their children. These youths have not had that experience. For this class, young men and women attend separately. The students are foster youth participating at Koinonia’s substance abuse treatment clinic in Placer County; their ages range from 13 to 18 years-old.

The topic of Meaningful Relationships began with a check-in; each student shared an update, or something exciting that happened since their last visit. Andy then assigned a journal activity – to write about a powerful relationship and why it is meaningful. After five minutes of writing, the discussion began.

One by one, the students revealed an important relationship: parents, grandparents, siblings, best friends, friends in treatment and more.

Through the discussion, they analyzed the relationships – their meaning, and how they influenced their choices. Feeling loved, not judged, providing a sense of commonality, dependability, and consistency made these relationships important to the teens.

Unfortunately, these were often the relationships that introduced the students to drugs, alcohol, or unhealthy life choices in the first place – feeding a cycle of abuse and addiction. Listening to their discussion felt therapeutic – as if breakthroughs were being experienced.

Breaking the cycle is often extremely difficult; out-of-home placements in a foster/group home can provide a fresh start and an opportunity to make a break from hopelessness and addiction. Koinonia Group Homes and their partner agencies provide vital rehabilitative services and resources to youths in foster care.

 

TRANSITIONING YOUTH

I met with Amanda Cozington, a PRIDE Youth Counselor/Job Developer, and her client Emerald, 19, at The Taylor House – a transitional house for former foster youth and at-risk/homeless girls. The Taylor House is located in Roseville, CA. The home is a safe and comfortable place for transitioning girls; with the assistance of community resources, they can create a healthy foundation for adulthood.

Emerald’s story began when her parents’ home was foreclosed upon in 2013. For several months, she and her family experienced homelessness. For months, they lived in motel rooms uncertain about what would come next. Eventually, the family separated and moved to different states. Emerald was left to fend for herself without her family, a support system, or home. Luckily, she was referred to PRIDE Industries Youth Services.

With the assistance of her counselor, Emerald now has a resume, a cover letter, important vital documents needed for employment, and health insurance. Most importantly, she has a safe place to call home. She landed a part-time job at the mall which seemed promising until her hours were cut.

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Pictured L to R: Emerald and Amanda Cozington

Fortunately, Emerald is a resilient and resourceful young woman. She is determined to make something of herself. She began volunteering at a local organization called Compassion Planet. Compassion Planet is a non-profit providing support to at-risk teens and aged-out foster youth in Placer and Sacramento Counties. Through their business ventures, they provide jobs and life-skills to youth in the region. As a volunteer, Emerald gained employment skills and possibly a new job with the organization which she hopes to begin soon.

Despite her difficult past, Emerald is doing her best to move forward. “Live life and move on,” says Emerald. “The past is the past and it doesn’t have to follow you into the future.” She is thankful for her family and the past she overcame, understanding that those experiences shaped her into the person she is today. For now, she is focusing on continuing to gain work experience that will lead her to a career path. Emerald plans to attend college once she has a better idea of what she wants to study.

 

AT-RISK YOUTH

Late on a Friday afternoon, I met with Dan Apgar, a PRIDE Youth Counselor/Job Developer and his client “Paul” (he asked us not to use his real name). Dan supports Paul through WIA (Workforce Investment Act), a Golden Sierra Job Training Agency grant. Through WIA PRIDE Youth Counselors/Job Developers, provide employment preparation and education services to at-risk youth in Placer County.

Paul, 19, came to PRIDE Industries after many failed attempts to find work on his own. Paul lives with schizophrenia – often unseen and misunderstood mental illness. With medication, it is kept under control, but his speech is also a bit slurred and monotone – something he is trying to improve to make a better first impression.

After months of applying for jobs without success, Paul decided to contact a professional. For the past seven months, he has been working with Dan to create a resume, a cover letter, gain interview and job seeking skills. In March, he landed an internship at a local store!

While interning at the store, Paul has gained valuable customer service skills, and learned how to be diligent and proactive employee. He has also improved his speech and confidence.

Dan and Paul meet on a weekly basis to review challenges and to practice interviewing skills. As a next step, Paul hopes to get a job at an athletic shoes store so he can share his passion for shoes with customers and co-workers. His aspirations go beyond shoes; Paul’s dream job is to be an Audio Engineer. He wants to help artist’s record the next bit hit.

 

View a Los Angeles Times video on – “Aging Out: Voices from those in the foster care system

Aging Out

 

IT TAKES A VILLAGE

In setting out to learn more about PRIDE’s Youth Services Program, I learned about the “village” – the many community programs serving the needs of foster youth, transitioning youth, and at-risk youth. Youth Services works with multiple group homes in Placer County and other agencies including the Children’s Receiving Home of Sacramento, and Mercy Ministries. These community partners work together to help youth overcome often troubled paths and create a better one for the future.

We’re proud to be a part of this network, serving more than 300 foster and at-risk youth annually with support, training and paid internships for qualifying individuals provided in part through PRIDE Industries Foundation.

 

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

Thank you,

Catalina Figueroa

 

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 INTAKE INTERVIEW

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.

 

THE JOB CLUB

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.

 

NETWORKING: LUNCH

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!

 

THE EXIT INTERVIEW

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.

 

WHERE I ARRIVED

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

A Day in the Life of a Disability Case Manager

Pictured left to right: Mara Moore, PRIDE Industries Employee, Thomas Andrews, PRIDE Industries Case Manager and Counselor.

Pictured left to right: Mara Mooney, PRIDE Industries Employee, and Thomas Andrews, PRIDE Industries Case Manager and Counselor.

Since 1966, PRIDE Industries’ goal has been to create meaningful work for people with disabilities—and in the process, help individuals rise above them. PRIDE’s founding members were on to something big: When people are nourished by the power of purpose, their spirits soar, their talents blossom…and their disabilities disappear.

48 years later and nearly 5,000 strong; PRIDE’s mission continues to fuel our efforts. No matter what role we perform at PRIDE, together we strive to – create jobs for people with disabilities. Like everyone else, people with disabilities have strengths and challenges. Our structured approach provides a support system that includes Job Coaches, Case Managers/Counselors, and Supervisors who understand each person’s disability and are able to help with their day-to-day challenges.

Renee Shoaf, PRIDE Industries Case Manager at FOSSAC in San Diego, shares a bit about her position here:

There is no easy way to describe a typical day in the life of a disability counselor; each day is different and unpredictable.

The challenges a disability case manager encounters are diverse in nature and vary in complexity. A day at work may include helping an employee apply for a discounted bus pass, explaining different health insurance options, or coaching an individual on appropriate workplace behavior.  

As a counselor serving individuals with disabilities, I wear many different hats and need to switch them sometimes at a moment’s notice. My hats include educator, influencer, resource specialist, advocate, trusted advisor, conflict mediator, “psychologist,” and even “den mother” on some days.

The niftiest thing about working for PRIDE Industries is that all of the employees I collaborate with are allowed “do-overs.” PRIDE provides a safety net in a society that – far too often – passes judgment based on superficial appearances. Aside from behavior that is egregious or malicious to the point where it endangers someone’s safety, employees understand that they may receive a ‘get out of jail free’ pass on an initial indiscretion and have ample space to learn, grow, and make positive changes. At PRIDE, we encourage the development of individuals and understand that mistakes will be made. Like everyone else, each person with disabilities has different learning styles, and their disability can affect the way information is processed or retained. Reminders and repeated instructions are bountiful in our environment, as such they are not perceived as a burden or impediment to accomplishing the assigned tasks.

Recently, I had an employee escorted off the premises due to an inappropriate act. In this case, my role entailed referring the individual for assessment and preparing documentation based on the findings to help a third-party entity evaluate whether this person could be granted a second chance. Indeed, the individual was granted a second chance. Despite the incident, it turned out to be a gratifying experience for all involved when we were able to reinstate the individual back to work.

Unfortunately, outside factors affect our job, which calls for my “messenger of bad news” hat. Because our site is based on a government contract, the work we perform depends on the funding we receive, which can create instability and risk. For example, when the government shutdown in the fall of 2013 happened, I had to explain how this affected us, and what this meant to some of our employees who understandably worried about their jobs. If you’ve ever had to make sense of something that is complicated and with many layers, perhaps you can appreciate the degree of difficulty this entailed. 

Nonetheless, the most important part of my job at that time was to be a realist, yet a hopeful optimist to someone whose dream of being self-reliant has been finally fulfilled through their job at PRIDE Industries. At the end of the day, we’re all powered by purpose. On behalf of all the staff working for PRIDE, regardless of our respective roles, I believe we all agree that we are very fortunate to be collaborating on such a wonderful mission – to create jobs for people with disabilities!