The road to employment for people with disabilities shouldn’t be rocky, but for Eliza Valtierra, it was. And for many individuals like Eliza, born with a disability, difficulty finding employment is just one of many hurdles—some dating back to childhood.

“When I was born, something was already wrong with my ears,” said Eliza.

Eliza doesn’t recall the exact diagnosis, but she remembers that treatment included the puncturing of both of her eardrums, making the situation worse rather than better.

When she was 13 and her ears were finally retested, Eliza discovered that she had 50 percent hearing loss in each ear. By this age, Eliza was enduring more than her share of bullying at school. Kids often thought she was ignoring them or, at times, thought she was too loud or too quiet—the result of her not knowing how to modulate the volume of her voice. Unfortunately, bullying would follow Eliza into her first jobs.

At sixteen, working as a dishwasher at an Italian restaurant, Eliza couldn’t hear the chef or her coworkers.

“They didn’t believe I couldn’t hear them,” she said. “So, they’d throw big balls of dough at me. Really big, and with force. I’d get bruises.”

It didn’t go much better at other jobs or even when Eliza eventually attended community college, where she strived to attain her AA degree in Criminal Justice until her work schedule began to erode her GPA. Finally overwhelmed, she stopped just six months shy of graduation.

“Since becoming an electrician, Eliza has continued to thrive in her career. She is one of the electrical shop’s top producers and has received numerous positive Interactive Customer Evaluation (ICE) comments (the equivalent of employer feedback) from our military customer at Fort Bliss.”

If there was an upside to leaving school, it was that Eliza—despite the bullying she’d endured early on—loved to work. But, deep down, she knew she wanted more than a job. She wanted a career. Then, at 22, driving down the street, she saw a billboard.

From a Job to a Career

“The billboard said something about becoming an electrician,” said Eliza. “I thought I want to do that, and that’s when my journey to becoming an electrician started.”

Soon after, Eliza started classes at El Paso Community College’s Advanced Technology Center. There she met a master electrician who recommended she simply become an apprentice at an electrical company, where she could begin accruing hours toward her journeyman’s license while working in the field.

And that’s exactly what Eliza did. From 2014 to 2017, she accrued hours and learned the electrical trade. Then, when she was 25 while seeking cost-effective hearing aids through Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services (DARS), a counselor there told her about PRIDE Industries—specifically, a job there that matched her skill set.

After a couple of calls, Eliza began working with PRIDE Industries Recruiting Counselor Cynthia Baca. Soon after that, she was hired by PRIDE Industries as a maintenance trade helper for its Fort Bliss customer.

“I assisted the electricians and general maintenance workers on their trucks,” said Eliza. “Doing all I could to make their jobs easier.”

Once on the job, Eliza also worked with Job Counselor Brianda Hernandez.

“She made sure I was being treated well and had assistive devices if needed,” said Eliza.

For a year, Eliza worked in this capacity, accruing the final hours toward her journeyman requirement. Then, in 2018, after passing the journeyman electrician test, she was promoted to General Maintenance Worker and, in 2019, to her current position as a PRIDE Industries electrician.

During this time, Eliza met a coworker who knew American Sign Language (ASL).

“He taught me while we worked swing shift together,” said Eliza. “We’d spend the second half of our shifts signing while we worked.”

As Fort Bliss boasts a large Deaf community, knowing ASL came in handy. The skill became imperative when, a year after arriving at the fort, Eliza met the man who would become her husband, a fellow PRIDE Industries employee.

“My husband is deaf,” said Eliza. “So, it’s good that I learned ASL fast. I know it pretty well now.”

Thriving in Her Career

Since becoming an electrician, Eliza has continued to thrive in her career. She is one of the electrical shop’s top producers and has received numerous positive Interactive Customer Evaluation (ICE) comments (the equivalent of employer feedback) from our military customer at Fort Bliss.

In 2022, she was also named Employee of the Year by PRIDE Industries management at Fort Bliss.

On top of all this, Eliza was selected by Don Nelson, PRIDE Industries Vice President of Government Facilities Services, to attend the SourceAmerica® Conference in May 2023. SourceAmerica® is a leading job creator for people with disabilities.

“I selected Eliza for the great work she’s done at Fort Bliss,” said Don. “This was an opportunity for her to learn more about Source America’s AbilityOne® program and what it can do for employees with disabilities. I trusted she’d be able to message that back to the Fort Bliss team from her perspective.”

Eliza’s work ethic expands beyond her role at PRIDE Industries.

In her spare time, she volunteers with the Home Builders Institute (HBI), teaching introductory electrical classes to soldiers transitioning from the military. And she does all of this without falling behind in her work duties.

Advice to People with Disabilities Seeking Employment

Eliza has become an advocate when it comes to employment for people with disabilities. When asked what advice she’d offer others with disabilities who are considering reaching out to PRIDE Industries, she was quick to say, “You don’t need to be scared. PRIDE Industries will assist you every step of the way.”

She recommends that people call the I AM ABLE Employment Helpline to get started.

A Bright Future

Top producer. Employee of the Year. Source America Conference representative. Volunteer teacher. Through tenacity and hard work, Eliza has come a long way since her days spent in the path of flying dough balls.

And her future career goal?

“I’d like to be a supervisor one day,” she said.

If her employment trajectory since joining PRIDE Industries is an indicator of future success, that and more are surely possible for Eliza.

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