Veterans Salute – Billy Smith

 

Billy Smith

“As a young man, my life was going nowhere; I felt that something was missing. After leaving my turbulent home as a teenager, I found myself living on the street for a while. But I always wanted more for myself and to see the world.”

Billy Smith worked a series of short-term jobs as a construction worker, laborer, industrial painter, sandblaster, longshoreman, fish and shrimp loader, and gas station attendant before he received his high school GED from Tyler Junior College in Texas. After reaching this achievement, he decided to find his sense of purpose by joining the U.S. Navy in 1990.

“When I first took the military exam, I failed it. However, I retook it and aced it. I loved my life in the Navy. Training involved much hard work, and yep, it was harsh. Basic training involved a few men screaming at each one of us. After 8 or 36 weeks (depending on your test scores), you are off on your own to school and a duty station. It took many long hours of studying after final graduation until we were shipped off to serve on a fleet.”

“I started as an E1 Recruit/Deck Seaman and later attended Advanced C school (advanced Navy training) to study engineering. My final graduation test involved working for 24 hours on a broken jet engine to make it start by the morning. Throughout my service, I advanced to an E3 Fireman, and finished as a GSM1 Gas Turbine Systems Technician, Petty Officer First Class (Surface Warfare).”

Throughout his time in the Navy, Billy served on board of naval ships during multiple deployments, including for the Desert Storm (Gulf War), Operation Noble Eagle (in response to September 11th attack), Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Desert Shield (part of the Iraq War), and many more.

“My most extended term serving was for 10 months in Operation Desert Storm. On the ship, we launched missiles and examined passing vessels for contraband, human smuggling and bombs. We were working to protect our nation, as well as our allies that were there to help us.”

“Even when you come home, taking care of the ship always came first. One time, I slept in the engine room in a hammock all week, working all night. It hurt at times because I couldn’t see my family.”

“Despite the challenges of being deployed, I learned discipline and courage through serving. One of my most memorable moments occurred while being stationed in the Red Sea in 1991 when we escorted a group of our Egyptian allies. They gave us a tour of many cultural landmarks such as the Great Pyramids. It made such an impression on me, and I felt proud to protect people worldwide that need help.”

“Through 20 years of serving, I built my career and one of my biggest passions: engineering. Whether it is working on an LM2500 or an ALISON 501 Jet engine, or a 1000-ton chiller plant, it is a wonderful job to have. Later, I worked as an Instructor at the Great Lakes Center of Naval Engineering to teach young recruits. I am often told that I never left the service, as when I am working on a job all is forgotten but the task at hand.”

“I retired honorably from the military in 2010 in San Diego, CA. My family, including my wife and two daughters, supported me throughout my career and transition to civilian life. It was difficult at first; civilians are not wired the same as military personnel. In my opinion, civilians have it tougher since military life is sheltered, and we have the patience to slow down and assess difficult situations. I’m still using military acronyms to this day!”

After relocating to Texas, Billy joined PRIDE’s Bureau of Engraving, Western Currency Facility site at Ft. Worth, TX as a Stationary Engineer in 2010. “In my position, I help run operations on the plant including the chillers, boilers, air compressors, and turbines,” said Billy. “This environment is very supportive and a perfect for veterans like me. Once I joined, PRIDE even helped me get my recovery license. I would like to thank General Manager David Daniel, Assistant General Manager Brian Judd, Facilities Supervisor Chuck Wedgeworth, and Facilities Supervisor Brandon Kast. I am honored to work for these people every day, and they trust me to do my job.”

“I especially enjoy working with my colleagues with disabilities. From my time in the military, I have a service-connected disability and have received surgeries to reconnect fingers; as a result, I lack strength in my right hand. When I first joined PRIDE, I didn’t know sign language; now I am starting to learn some ASL (American Sign Language) to communicate with my co-workers who are deaf and hard-of-hearing.

“I earned all of what I sought by joining the Navy. Being deployed overseas makes you gain courage, grounds your faith by knowing you’ll make it home, helps you stay true to yourself, and allows you to be part of something greater.”

Veterans Salute – Edward Arango

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“The military encompassed my entire life while growing up. When I finally joined, it was just as I expected it to be. I felt proud to be a part of a larger purpose.”

Edward Arango grew up in Medellin, Colombia. After graduating from high school in 1987, he enlisted in the Colombian Air Force Academy and became an Air Weapon Control Officer. During this period, he participated in joint operations between the U.S. Air Force and the Colombian Air Force to curb drug trafficking.

“My father was my inspiration for joining; he served in the Colombian Army for 20 years, including in the Korean War. He was a man of few words, but always demonstrated dedication, respect, a genuine love for serving and support of other veterans – including my own military career.”

In 1994, Edward decided to immigrate to the United States and separated from the Colombian Air Force as a Lieutenant. After three years of working as a civilian, he enlisted in the U.S. Air Force as an Airman First Class and started attending the Supply Technical School in Lackland, Texas.

“Even though I did not speak perfect English, I graduated technical school with honors,” said Edward. “Re-joining the military in a different country still felt very similar, except that I had to start over again at a lower level. However, I learned valuable lessons about how to follow, as well as how to lead. I felt proud to work as a team member with my colleagues.”

Edward served throughout the country and moved up the ranks, including at Hurlburt Field AFB in Florida, Offutt AFB in Omaha, Nebraska, and finally to JB-MDL (Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst), NJ as a Captain. “One of my proudest moments happened when I was promoted to Staff Sergeant after three years of service (which usually takes around ten years).”

After almost a decade of service, Edward’s military career came to an end in 2006 when he sustained a knee injury that required surgery; this unfortunately created a life-threatening pulmonary embolism and multiple complications. After going through this health ordeal, he decided to retire to enjoy more time with his family.

“Service left me with significant back and knee problems. There are many activities I’m no longer able to do that I once loved, such as playing soccer, but I’ve learned to adjust.” Besides recovering from surgery and the following complications, Edward’s transition to civilian life proved challenging. “Civilian life is much more laid back and flexible, and I had to learn to adjust my own expectations of others. In the military, discipline and integrity are highly ingrained – when you ask someone to do something, it gets done. Furthermore, because of my disabilities, many employers turned me down for opportunities.”

After he became physically ready to rejoin the workforce, Edward turned to the Veteran’s Administration’s Vocational Rehabilitation Department for assistance; they referred him to PRIDE Industries. Since 2010, he has worked as a Grounds Maintenance Supervisor at PRIDE’s JB-MDL contract – managing a team that keeps the JB-MDL cantonment, ranges and training areas in prime condition.

“PRIDE Industries gave me the opportunity to be part of a team with the same objective to help our military customer. Through our work, we help ensure their success at home and abroad. I especially enjoy creating opportunities for our employees with disabilities and veterans to succeed in their careers and to overcome expectations.”

“I was genuinely proud to serve my whole career. My experience was the path in life I was destined for.”

Making A Difference

Marylyn
“When I go to work, I smile because I’m truly happy to be there.”

Marylyn Jackson, a custodian at PRIDE Industries’ Environmental and Custodial Services contract at VSP Global, makes it her mission to provide excellent customer service with a friendly attitude. VSP Global is a vision care health insurance and retail eyewear company headquartered in Rancho Cordova, CA. In her position, Marylyn details offices, cleans baseboards, and dusts chairs and desks; creating a clean, healthy and welcoming atmosphere for their employees and guests.

Marylyn and PRIDE’s team of custodians play an essential role in providing LEED standard Environmental and Custodial services to VSP. LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is an environmental certification program for buildings focused on promoting sustainability. By following these standards, PRIDE protects the health of building occupants while keeping the local environment free from toxic chemical contamination.

Instrumental to PRIDE’s success in reaching these standards is training our custodians to utilize the PRIDEClean® Custodial Process, which involves using the EPA-recognized PRIDEClean® cleaning products and high-efficiency filtered and microfiber cleaning equipment, as well as focusing on reducing chemical usage while delivering high-quality service. According to Marylyn, “This training helped me to perfect my skills and gain more confidence in myself as a custodian.”

“Marylyn’s high level of job performance shows in our building audits,” said Custodial Manager Brenda Sanchez. “The buildings that she is responsible for always score extremely high. Marylyn constantly receives great feedback from our customers, and her enthusiasm is contagious. We are very fortunate to have her on our team.”

“The customers I serve are my biggest motivation,” said Marylyn. “I aim to be courteous and polite to make the workplace feel hospitable so that they feel more motivated to do well in their jobs…. that’s what I’m here for! It’s always great to interact with my customers and colleagues.”

Before becoming employed at PRIDE Industries, Marylyn worked seasonally for over a decade. When she decided to look for a permanent position, she turned to PRIDE Industries’ Employment Services office in Fair Oaks, CA. After observing her great attitude and excellent work ethic, PRIDE’s staff placed Marylyn at VSP in February 2017.

“I’m so grateful and proud to have full-time employment,” said Marylyn. “PRIDE treats me like family. Working here, I realize how many other people also have disabilities. Some are visible, some are not (like my learning disability) – but with support, we all can get the job done together and make a difference.”

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.”

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.”

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.”

Building a Successful Career

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“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’ Fort Bliss, TX facilities and maintenance contract – starting his career working as a Grounds Maintenance Laborer in the Roads and 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.

A Path to Success

Celebrating our achievements together

For the 20,000+ youths emancipating from foster care across the nation, many have no significant safety net or family to support them during their transition to young adulthood. As a result, they face great difficulty in gaining steady employment. Only 71% of youth in foster care will receive a high school diploma by age 19, and only 10% will attend college – lowering career prospects.

To bridge this gap, PRIDE Industries is proud to help young adults in, and emancipating from, the foster care system develop independence and self-sufficiency skills. PRIDE’s Youth Services and Internship Programs provide support and guidance to teens while connecting them to internships and jobs in the community. This success is made possible by generous donations to the PRIDE Industries Foundation.

With the determination to build a foundation of independence, Phoenix, a 16-year old young woman in foster care, enrolled in PRIDE’s Youth Services Program in December 2016. She has graciously shared her story with us.

Phoenix’s Story:

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The future is looking bright for Phoenix. Currently a senior in high school, she maintains a 3.5 GPA, is taking Advanced Placement (AP) classes and is excited about attending college next year in the fall. Phoenix has overcome many obstacles in her young life as a youth in foster care, including adjusting to a new city, school and family. With purpose and drive, she maintains a positive attitude and continues to thrive.

After Phoenix celebrated her 16th birthday, she soon realized she would be reaching a serious milestone. “In two years, I am going to be financially on my own,” says Phoenix. “I needed to get a job to start saving for my future.” However, getting that first job was more difficult than she had anticipated; lack of a car and reliable transportation, a phone and prior job experience all presented challenges. When Phoenix was first invited to participate in an interview, she also did not know how to navigate through difficult questions.

“Coming from foster care, I often felt uncomfortable when asked questions about my personal life and background,” says Phoenix. “I didn’t feel like I had the answers that they wanted.”

Fortunately, Phoenix’s foster mother referred her to PRIDE Industries’ Youth Services Program, which connected her with Job Developer Danielle Anderson. Together, they worked to create a resume and cover letter. Phoenix practiced interviewing with multiple PRIDE Job Developers and worked on her posture, speaking tone and eye contact. Practice soon made perfect, and Phoenix’s confidence increased.

Aside from the guidance provided by PRIDE’s staff, the Foundation was able to help Phoenix by funding some essential items needed for employment success, including a cell phone and new appropriate interview clothing that fit properly.

The job search was not an easy one. “Not hearing back after applying was very frustrating,” says Phoenix. “As a minor, my job options were already limited.” Despite the long process, Phoenix persistently applied and followed up with every opportunity that she could find. After a few months, she called to inquire about opportunities at a local restaurant and landed an interview. With the new skills that she had learned, Phoenix was hired on the spot as a store associate/cashier in June 2017.

“The Youth Services team was so proud of Phoenix for reaching her goal,” says Danielle. “The skills that she learned including customer service, teamwork and balancing multiple priorities, will help her in future career pursuits.” Having a job not only provided a paycheck, but it has also improved Phoenix’s self-confidence. “I was able to purchase my first smartphone and started saving for college,” says Phoenix. With the experience gained from her first position, Phoenix applied again to a department store and is now working as a cashier in an environment that she enjoys.

After she graduates from high school in spring 2018, Phoenix plans to study psychology and become a therapist, focusing on adolescents. “The guidance I received from Danielle and PRIDE’s Youth Services team will continue to help me when I attend college and build a career,” says Phoenix.

An Opportunity to Find Meaningful Employment

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Finding a new career after leaving the workforce due to illness or disability can often be a daunting task. Joey Guillot is a carpenter at PRIDE Industries’ contract at Fort Polk in Louisiana. After a long period of unemployment due to his disabilities, Joey found a new place and career at PRIDE. To get to this point, he worked with much determination to overcome the numerous barriers posed by his disabilities.

As a result of an unaddressed learning disability, Joey became discouraged as a young student and dropped out of high school during his freshman year. Since he had left school so early, he never received the help needed to overcome his illiteracy. Despite his lack of a high school diploma, Joey found work in the community and built a self-sufficient life.

However, later in life, Joey developed peripheral neuropathy, a nerve condition that causes weakness, numbness, and pain in the hands and feet and other parts of the body. His condition worsened to the point of almost near paralysis. Due to complications, Joey was forced to leave the workforce in 2001. After the unexpected death of his wife of 25 years, he also began to struggle with depression and alcohol abuse, and his life took a turn for the worse.

Although Joey received Social Security Disability (SSDI) benefits, he never felt as fulfilled as when he was working. As the effects of his neuropathy began to improve, Joey decided to re-enter the workforce and search for a new career. Determined to reach his goal, he applied for employment services with Louisiana Rehabilitation Services (LRS) in April 2014.

In spite of the many challenges that he faced, Joey strived to change his life Searching for a new career would not prove an easy task; a 13-year resume gap, lack of high school diploma, struggles with depression and substance abuse, and neuropathy all were great obstacles to even getting an interview. Furthermore, Joey’s illiteracy prevented him from completing a GED program or learning another trade. Joey worked closely with his LRS counselors to manage his depression and maintain sobriety. Fortunately, the search ended in 2014 when LRS referred Joey to a training program at PRIDE Industries’ contract at Ft. Polk.

PRIDE ended up being the perfect opportunity for Joey; after four weeks of on-the-job training, he was hired as a general maintenance worker in the carpentry shop. “PRIDE Industries has been a blessing to this region because they give people with disabilities an opportunity to find meaningful employment,” says LRS Counselor Don Green. “There are few employers in Beauregard and Vernon Parish (a rural area) that provide opportunities for earning good wages as well as accommodations for employees with disabilities.”

To help Joey succeed in his job, PRIDE’s rehabilitation staff provides counseling and job coaching. They have also worked with him on improving his literacy skills, and Joey is currently earning his GED. “Joey is a very hard and determined worker who does not allow his disability to hold him back from accomplishing anything he wants. He is capable of completing any task that is set in front of him,” says Rehabilitation Counselor Sonja Matthews. Joey’s hard work and perseverance impressed his supervisors; when a carpenter position became available, he applied and was hired on October 3, 2015. Joey has continued to thrive in his new role and is currently aiming to become a carpenter lead.

With support, Joey was able to turn his life around. Steady employment, and along with a supportive network which included his father, church community, and his LRS counselor, Joey has managed his depression and successfully maintained sobriety. He also recently married Mrs. Angela Pratt in October 2015 and is greatly satisfied with his new position and positive outlook on life.

 

PRIDE Is Like Family

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Growing up in a small town in Connecticut, made Derek Ramsey, a service order dispatcher at PRIDE Industries – Los Angeles Air Force Base (LA AFB) contract, want to expand his horizons and explore the world.

This drive inspired Derek to join the US Navy as a young adult before he completed a college degree. Derek served in the Navy from 1999 – 2003 and was promoted from an E2 Seaman Apprentice to an Aviation Electrician Technician. Tours sent him twice to the Persian Gulf in 2000 – 2002. Derek was also briefly stationed in the Pacific and San Diego, CA. He retired from the military in 2002 and decided to move to Los Angeles.

Despite the skills that he learned while serving our country, Derek had difficulty finding permanent employment. Military jobs do not always translate easily to civilian work. “I have had jobs in purchasing, managing medical records, delivering mail, call center customer service – you name it, none of them worked out,” says Derek.

A factor was his diagnosis after military service of PTSD, and later Bipolar II Disorder. “My disabilities make it difficult for me to engage socially and concentrate on tasks,” Derek tells us. “I also frequently needed to take time off to go to medical appointments.” Due to lack of employer accommodations and understanding for his disabilities, Derek churned through jobs without developing a career trajectory.

Employment difficulties soon carried over into his personal life to the point where Derek found himself homeless for two years. “For a long time, I didn’t seek any help,” says Derek. Eventually, he turned to the Department of Veteran Affairs for help in finding housing. While at a doctor’s appointment, he discovered a flyer advertising for a service order dispatcher position at PRIDE Industries. He applied and was hired in early 2015.

PRIDE Industries ended up being just the opportunity that Derek needed; he recently celebrated his first year job anniversary. “This is one the longest jobs that I have ever had,” says Derek. “It was difficult, initially, being back on a military base. But I now feel comfortable working as a civilian and not as a soldier.”

The flexibility of time off for medical appointments and taking extra breaks has allowed Derek to excel in his position as a service order dispatcher. Job coaches and counselors are also available when needed to offer encouragement during challenging times. “Everyone is very supportive; PRIDE is like my family away from family,” says Derek.

Derek currently handles diverse service orders for LA AFB, including plumbing, electrical wiring, carpentry, locksmith, fire alarms, and engineering needs throughout the installation. He enjoys contributing to the running of the base. “Derek is always looking for ways to grow in his role,” says Laura Alvarez, PRIDE’s Service Order Supervisor. “He is responsible, takes great pride in his job, and is always a pleasure to work with.”

A permanent job has also helped Derek to achieve greater financial and personal stability. As a result, he has continued his education – a vital component of his career development. He recently earned a degree in Computer Networking and is now contemplating a future career in information technology.

We are proud to support veterans like Derek in employment and their career goals.