Ramon’s story is one of survival and perseverance. As the result of a long battle with cancer, Ramon developed blindness in one eye, which hindered his ability to find work. His journey brought him to PRIDE Industries, which offers individualized support, guidance, and resources to people with disabilities who are looking for a meaningful job and brighter future.
Employment Barriers for People with Disabilities
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,” Ramon said. “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,” said Ramon. This is not an uncommon scenario for many people with disabilities who are unsure where to turn to find a job.
Despite his many challenges, Ramon began looking for work and got a job at a fast food restaurant making hamburgers. But his triumph was short-lived. Due to lack of accessibility, Ramon was let go after just three days. His vision made it nearly impossible for him to see the monitor where orders appeared. Ramon was devastated.
Connecting People with Disabilities to Work Opportunities
Fortunately, Ramon sought assistance at a local vocational services agency and was referred to PRIDE Industries.
Following a model of social enterprise, PRIDE offers manufacturing, distribution and facilities service solutions to businesses and public agencies while creating meaningful jobs for people with disabilities. With the support of management and trainers, people like Ramon are empowered to develop professionally, creating a foundation for the rest of their working lives.
Ramon did not have to wait long for a job at PRIDE — he began working in the manufacturing department almost immediately. 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.
A Promising Future Thanks to Meaningful Work
“Eight years ago, when we began PRIDE’s high-volume shipping line, we were searching for a skilled hand-packager,” said his supervisor, Matthew Weiss. “Ramon was eager to apply his skills to our new service offering.”
With the position came new challenges. “When I first started, I was confused, and I made boxes too big,” he said. But Ramon learned rapidly and surpassed expectations.
“We discovered his talent for making boxes and making them quickly,” said Weiss. As simple as it sounds, the complex folds can confound many.
Ramon was thrilled for the opportunity. “I got a permanent position in the shipping department,” said Ramon. “It changed my life.”
He now has financial independence and, most importantly, health insurance to cover his routine medical expenses. “I get paid vacations, too,” he said. Plus, he is saving for his retirement through his 401K account. “I am happy because I am making money, and I have a 401K.”
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,” said Weiss. “We estimate that he makes over 1,000 boxes per day!”
Despite everything he has been through and daily challenges he still faces, Ramon is an optimistic individual who focuses on his blessings. 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.”
“I am happy here,” he said. “In the United States, I have the opportunity to work.” He is also grateful his tumor has not returned and that he was able to find work with PRIDE.