The path to employment for people with disabilities, like Deaf people, can be a long one. And when that journey mandates learning two new languages, it can also be steep.
“From what I know, I was born deaf,” said Jesus Rosales, Facilities Supervisor for PRIDE Industries’ carpentry shop at Fort Bliss. “But at that time, my family didn’t have the resources to know about deafness.”
That was 1977. Soon after, in 1980, three-year-old Jesus and his family immigrated from his birth country of Mexico to Texas. By age eight, Jesus was enrolled in Amarillo Day School’s program for Deaf students where he came to understand more about Deaf culture. It was there that he began learning both English and American Sign Language (ASL) at the same time. Learning two languages at once was challenging, but it got easier when Jesus entered high school at the Texas School for the Deaf.
“We used ASL along with Signing Exact English (SEE) there,” said Jesus. “Then I was on a roll.”
Indeed, he was, both academically and athletically. Sophomore, junior, and senior years found Jesus not only earning recognition in the Honor Roll Society, but also as Best Defensive Player for football, Best Distance Runner for track, and Most Dedicated Player in baseball—a sport he still plays and now teaches.
A Few More Hills to Climb
After graduating from high school, Jesus spent a year employed as a computer technician before enrolling in Southwest College for the Deaf. There, he spent three years becoming certified as a dental lab worker.
“I worked in dental, but not for long before I moved,” he said “I also spent a year setting up equipment for musicians. Then, for three years, I worked night shifts at Walmart.”
While his Walmart managers loved his work, Jesus was growing weary of nighttime hours and, by age 32, he was ready for a more challenging vocation with room for growth. That year, 2009, an opportunity arrived.
“A friend mentioned PRIDE Industries,” said Jesus. “There were better jobs that I was qualified for—and better yet, they were during the day.”
Jesus also saw that PRIDE Industries specializes in employment for people with disabilities, including employment for Deaf people. So, that summer, he applied online at the social enterprise’s website. Soon he was working with PRIDE Industries Recruiter Cynthia Baca, as well as a job coach who translated in ASL during Jesus’ interview.
“It was a whole new ball game from then on!” said Jesus.
From Jobs to a Career
Jesus was hired as a general maintenance laborer (GML) for PRIDE Industries’ Roads and Grounds shop at Fort Bliss. Soon after, he applied for and got a position as a general maintenance worker (GMW) in the Between Occupancy Maintenance (BOM) department.
“That’s when I was really introduced to carpentry,” he said. “Fixing doors, floors, ceilings, and walls.”
“I knew right away that Jesus was a dedicated hard worker,” said William Green, Assistant General Manager of Operations for PRIDE Industries at Fort Bliss. “He also has integrity and can be trusted to do the right thing when nobody is looking.”
Jesus spent the next eight years cultivating his carpentry expertise as well as his leadership skills and discovered that one of his strengths is particularly useful.
“I found that I’m good a visually training others,” said Jesus. “It works better for some Deaf people than writing it all down. I show them instead.”
Because Fort Bliss employs many Deaf individuals, this skill is especially important, but it’s also helpful for hearing employees.
“Many of our employees, Deaf and non-Deaf, learn best by being shown the task,” said William. “Jesus rolls up his sleeves, goes out to the jobsite, and shows people how to do it. This hands-on approach also builds esprit de corps (team spirit) and trust between supervisor and employees.”
In 2018, Jesus was promoted to GMW lead—a role he excelled at. Then, in 2020, he was promoted again—this time to supervisor. In each case, he was selected based not only on his overall job performance, but also on his leadership skills.
“Being a supervisor is the hardest position, in my view,” said William. “They are where the rubber meets the road as far as getting things done, making decisions that are sometimes unpopular, and taking care of our employees.”
These days, Jesus can be found leading his team in completing any number of carpentry tasks, from conducting extensive cosmetic work to repairing masonry to reshingling roofs. Recently, he also broadened his leadership skill set when he was selected to be part of the team that created PRIDE Industries’ new core values: Integrity, Tenacity, Teamwork, and Innovation.
“Jesus is a positive role model for everyone here,” said William. “And the fact that he was asked to sit on some corporate committees to give his perspective—that’s a testament to his value as a leader.”
A Bright Future
As for Jesus’ future, his supervisor, William, is the first to say that it’s bright.
“His potential for growth has factored into his promotions,” says William. “Going forward, Jesus has what it takes to do anything he wants to do in life.”
And Jesus’ thoughts on his future?
“I plan to continue advancing my career at PRIDE Industries,” he said.
Supporting Employees with Disabilities
Jesus sees potentially bright futures for others, too. When asked for his thoughts on employment for Deaf people at PRIDE Industries, he said, “The possibilities are endless. There’s training. There’s hands-on work. If you don’t know exactly what to do, we are here with support, accommodations, and training that other companies don’t have.” And now, for all those with disabilities seeking employment, a simple call to PRIDE Industries’ I AM ABLE Employment Helpline can get the process started.
It’s been quite a journey for Jesus, including the mastery of three languages: Spanish, English, and ASL. Some might argue that he’s mastered a fourth: The language of leadership.