Gerardo first came to Easterseals Oregon’s Connecting Communities program (previously known as the Latino Connection program) in December of 2017. He was in a transitional state at the time because he needed to change careers. Gerardo had driven trucks commercially for twelve years, but he was dealing with some injuries and some negative marks on his driving record that were preventing him from driving professionally anymore. To make matters more challenging, Gerardo had little or no experience working in an office setting and using soft skills. We discovered quickly that he had to learn how to interact with others in an appropriate manner, as some of the behavior he exhibited during his initial time at our office was not acceptable. It also became clear early on that Gerardo had a problem with substance abuse that he would have to overcome before he could accomplish his goals. Despite the numerous challenges ahead, our team was confident that we could help Gerardo turn his life around.
Gerardo first started with computer classes and workshops. During the computer classes, he did pretty well; and at first, he was interested in learning how to type so he could transfer into an office setting. We initially did some one-on-one classes to teach him how to type and use the typing tutorials, and we also provided some coaching on body posture, body alignment and rules for developing good typing skills. The body alignment and posture coaching was important because Gerardo had been dealing with some physical issues with his shoulders and joints after being a truck driver for so long. Gerardo initially did really well with the typing lessons, and he started coming to the office three or four times per week to practice independently. He was able to learn the entire keyboard in about a month’s time, which is quite fast! Gerardo is now typing at 30 words per minute without making any errors. He is working on the advanced levels of the typing tutorials on his free time.
During those initial days in the lab, it became apparent that Gerardo was having some interpersonal issues. He was having a hard time with the noise in the office, so we made accommodations for him by allowing him to work in his own space with a laptop and headphones. It also became apparent that he was very eager to engage in conversation with the staff and participants in the front of the office, to the degree that it was becoming a distraction for others. Furthermore, he was not respecting other peoples’ space; and at occasionally, Gerardo was doing things that could be considered disrespectful or suggestive to others. We had to initially have a talk with Gerardo about his behavior in the computer lab, in the way that he interacted with others, the noise level he was using when talking to others, and the comments he was making that were not appropriate. At first, Gerardo was very rigid in his reaction to suggestions and corrections of his behavior. Usually, upon being given suggestions on how to behave appropriately in the office or computer lab, he would be quite resistant - either denying the behavior was not ok, or getting upset to the point of leaving the office. Over time, and with a gentle approach, our staff was able to help Gerardo realize the kind of behavior that is ok for an office, and he became much more receptive. Little by little, he was able to start understanding the way he should conduct himself when he came to the office, and he started to act much more respectable in his interpersonal interactions.
During his time working with our staff, Gerardo was very vocal about his use of substances. He would sometimes come to the office smelling clearly of the substances he would abuse, and he openly talked about how he loved to use them. It also came to light that he had lost his driving job due to this substance abuse, and not passing a urinalysis test for work. During Gerardo’s time with us, he began to contemplate the use of the substance and how it had effected his life. He began to question if he should use due to his personal goals and his interpersonal interactions. After being in our program for seven months, Gerardo decided to become sober, so he could pursue a career in driving again and be more aware of himself and his behavior around others. Gerardo’s sobriety was a huge turning point for him, and he started to put the wheels in motion to change his life dramatically.
After making the decision to become sober, Gerardo decided to start a diversion program to help him get sober and turn his life in a different direction. He became much more open to the soft skills training he was receiving, and he changed his behavior in the office to be more respectful of peoples’ space and time. He set a long-term goal of completing the diversion program and taking the necessary steps to get back on the road as a commercial driver. He also worked with his job developer to make a solid plan and make sure he was following all of the steps to clean up his record and contract employment upon completing his time in the diversion program. He continued taking one-on-one computer classes with one of our instructors, and he started learning more about tools that would help him secure a job and be a more effective, well-trained driver. He learned how to use Google maps, use email, use a web browser to conduct job search and research, and he became more technologically literate overall. Gerardo also attended all of our job-readiness and soft skill workshops; and as he did so, we began to see dramatic improvement with his attitude and behavior towards others and himself.
After many turns in the road, personal changes, and achievements, one of our job developers was able to help Gerardo secure job as a commercial driver again. There were challenges that arose with the certification process of the diversion program, but our staff was also able to help Gerardo navigate the way to have his diversion process recognized and certified by Cascade Medical and have his driving record cleared.
After completing all of the necessary counseling, testing, and orientation period of a new job, Gerardo is now happily working as a commercial driver again. He has reported feeling very content and happy to be back in the field of employment in which he is most happy and satisfied. Gerardo was on a long journey to self-transformation; but he took the challenge head-on and faced problem areas in his life, and he took the necessary steps to change. Our whole office is very proud of the personal and professional achievements Gerardo has made over the year and a half of enrollment in our program.
For more Stories of Hope like this one, follow us on Facebook and Instagram by clicking the logos below.