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Vignettes: Five Successful Texans

By Tajauna Dunning

The Valley Independent Living Association Center and other community organizations in Texas have been working hard at assisting Latinos with disabilities to remove barriers and find employment. Here are five snapshots of Latino Texans with disabilities who have been successful.

Elma Rojas

Elma Rojas was diagnosed with a heart condition at age 51. Her condition ended the multi-year career she had at a department store. Elma visited her local independent living center after her physician recommended she find a less physically demanding job. An employment specialist assessed Elma and identified her vocational interests. She discovered one of her interests was to care for the elderly and assist them with the activities of daily living. Today Elma is working as a provider at Apex Primary Health. Elma said, "my new job has had a therapeutic impact on my life, making me feel useful."

Leonardo Lopez

Leonardo Lopez is a 23-year-old Hispanic man with a cognitive disability from Donna, Texas. He was experiencing difficulty finding a job. Leonardo wanted to work since he graduated high school, but he was never successful at landing a job. Then he visited the Valley Independent Living Association Center in Brownsville, Texas. They assisted Leonardo with social, job seeking, and job interviewing skills. After gaining new skills Leonardo found employment at World Technical Services in the maintenance department.

María Trinidad

María Trinidad began seeking employment after completing a two-year program in Child Development at South Texas Community College. She felt passionate about becoming an educator and working with children. María's patience and good nature made her an ideal candidate for this type of work, however, she was very soft spoken and shy. María began attending workshops offered on employment and she managed to overcome her fear of speaking in public. Ultimately she found a position as a teacher's aide in a Head Start program. María cannot believe she gets paid to do what she loves doing.

Juan Muņoz

Juan Muņoz lives in San Juan, Texas. He is a recent high school graduate who has a learning disability. He never held a job while in high school. During high school his time was occupied as a player on the school's sports teams. Muņoz learned a lot about sports during high school. After graduation, he used this knowledge to secure a job at a sporting goods store called Just For Feet. The store manager acknowledged that his knowledge about sports made him an asset to the company and the clients he assists. Muņoz took on a second job as a trainer's assistant at Summit Sports Club. Since landing his two jobs Muņoz's self-esteem and self-confidence have increased considerably. Muņoz now is considering beginning a vocational career.

Alexis Perez

Alexis Perez has a cognitive disability. He also has a physical disability that prohibits him from lifting heavy weight. Alexis visited the Valley Association for Independent Living in Pharr, Texas, for employment assistance. Determined to find a vocation he would enjoy, Alexis told his employment counselor he liked to drive and would like his employment goal to include driving. The ILC helped Alexis sharpen his job seeking and interviewing skills. He began applying for positions and landed two jobs: one as a valet parking attendant and the other as a delivery driver. He enjoys both jobs since they allow him to do what he enjoys most, driving.