My journey so far has been filled with many twists and turns. Starting as a young boy, I made some pretty poor choices about who I hung around and how I spent my time and ended up joining and gang and selling drugs.
In 1995, at the age of 15, I was shot in the back and have been paralyzed from the waist down ever since, confining me to a wheelchair. Imagine being told you would never walk again and the impact that has to a 15 year old. Naturally I became very depressed and began using drugs for the next 10 years.
At this time, stuck in a cloud of depression, I convinced myself, with a little help from my peers, I would never be able to find a job so I began selling drugs to earn money. This ended with predictable results, me getting arrested.
During my time in jail I made the decision to turn my life around, I got sober, earned my GED and haven’t looked back since. I knew I wanted to work, but still had the idea in my head I wouldn’t be able to because of my disability.
Through my connection with Louisiana Rehabilitation Services, I was referred to Goodwill Industries of Northern Louisiana’s (Shreveport) Supported Employment program and my world changed again. For the first time, I had people telling me I could do things, I could get a job, I could support my family. My disability stopped becoming something that defined me and within two weeks I interviewed for a job at a Goodwill Store as a processing team member and was hired.
It’s difficult to put into words the level of impact this whole situation has had on my life. Now I have self-confidence and self-respect and a great relationship with my family. I can call myself a provider and a responsible father. I’m saving for retirement and have been able to be a role model for my family for the first time. This is invaluable.
I’ve come a long way from that 15 year old boy who was shot in the back. There was a time when I had little respect for anyone, myself included, but now I treat everyone I meet with respect and have forged meaningful relationships with my coworkers. We’re a diverse group, but a family all the same.
I want to thank Goodwill and Cecilia for helping me overcome myself and become the man, father and provider I am today.