Ramon’s story is one of survival and perseverance. At the young age of ten, Ramon was diagnosed with a brain tumor. After multiple surgeries, radiation, and chemotherapy treatments, the tumor subsided. The battle cost Ramon much of his teen years, as he was in and out of Mexican hospitals battling the cancer. It also took away most of his sight in his right eye. “My left eye is okay, but the right one … I cannot see with it,” says Ramon Telles, 30, a Materials Handler at PRIDE Industries. “With my right eye I see darkness.”
In search of a new beginning and better life, his family relocated to the U.S. in 2001. In this country, Ramon faced new challenges: learning a new language, navigating a new city with a disability, and struggling with financial instability. “I never worked; I stayed home,” says Ramon.
Despite his many challenges, Ramon was determined to be a contributing member of his new community. He got a job at a fast food restaurant making hamburgers. But, his triumph was short-lived. After just three days on the job, he was let go. His vision made it nearly impossible for him to see the monitor where orders appeared. Ramon was devastated.
Fortunately, he connected with the local vocational services agency and was referred to PRIDE Industries. Eager for an opportunity, Ramon began working in PRIDE’s manufacturing department. For two years, Ramon worked on a variety of packaging, assembly, and order fulfillment projects at PRIDE headquarters in Roseville, CA.
During this time, he also attended night school to learn conversational English. Once he felt comfortable with his language skills, he studied for the citizenship test. In 2007, he took the test and passed, becoming a United States citizen.
Still, Ramon wanted more for himself. His seemingly never-ending energy and aptitude for the work led him to pursue other opportunities within PRIDE. “Eight years ago, when we began PRIDE’s high-volume shipping line, we were searching for a skilled hand-packager,” says his supervisor, Matthew Weiss. “Ramon was eager to apply his skills to our new service offering.”
Ramon was thrilled for the opportunity. “I got a permanent position in the shipping department,” says Ramon. “It changed my life.” He now has financial independence and, most importantly, health insurance to cover his routine medical expenses. He adds, “I get paid vacations, too.” Plus, he is saving for his retirement through his 401K account. “I am happy because I am making money, and I have a 401K.”
With the position came new challenges, “When I first started, I was confused, and I made boxes too big.” His confusion did not last long. He learned rapidly and surpassed expectations. “We discovered his talent for making boxes and making them quickly,” says Weiss. As simple as it sounds, the complex folds can confound many.
PRIDE Industries employs a model of social enterprise, offering manufacturing, distribution and facilities service solutions to businesses and public agencies while creating meaningful jobs for people with disabilities.
Jobs for individuals like Ramon are created through PRIDE’s business enterprises, and by partnering with other community employers. With the support of management and trainers, individuals with disabilities develop professionally, creating a foundation for the rest of their working lives.
Ramon has been part of the shipping team for eight years now. His co-workers call him ‘Speedy Gonzales’ because of his rapid box assembly. “What makes Ramon so amazing is that he can succeed despite having extensive vision loss,” says Weiss. “We estimate that he makes over 1,000 boxes per day!”
Although, Ramon is tremendously successful at PRIDE Industries, he still encounters challenges. “I cannot read for a long time, or else I get headaches,” says Ramon. “And, I cannot drive a car.” Despite his many achievements, his inability to get a driver’s license or drive a car is what he laments the most. Now and then, he becomes irritated that he has to rely on public transportation. While he lives less than 20 minutes from work as the crow flies, his trip takes nearly an hour each way due to transportation wait times.
Still, Ramon is an optimistic individual and focuses on his blessings. “I am happy here,” he says. “In the United States, I have the opportunity to work.” He is reminded of his good fortune when he visits family in Mexico. “In Mexico there are no jobs. In my hometown, many people are poor.” Despite his vision loss, Ramon counts his blessings and is grateful that the tumor was not malignant and has not returned. He is also thankful to have found PRIDE. “This company changed my life, and I thank you very much.”
We are glad you found a place with us, Ramon, and we’re thankful to have you at PRIDE.