Ismael Calzada: How Skills Training and Job Coaching Led to Opportunity

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Ismael Calzada: How Skills Training and Job Coaching Led to Opportunity

This Ability Works Award Winner Used the Skills He Learned from DRS and Goodwill to Jumpstart His Career

Ismael Calzada works as a dishwasher at Perkins Restaurant in Moundsville. This is his first real job, and he is happy to have the opportunity and loves working there.

Originally from Pennsylvania, Ismael and his family relocated, and he has spent most of his life growing up in Moundsville. He graduated from John Marshall High School in 2020.

While in school, Ismael was referred to the West Virginia Division of Rehabilitation Services (DRS) for transition services to help him prepare for life after graduation.

Ismael has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). DRS Certified Rehabilitation Counselor Debbie Moore explained that Ismael had trouble concentrating and was easily distracted from staying on task, which could hinder his ability to succeed in the workplace.

While still in high school, Moore got Ismael involved in life skills training through the local Goodwill Industries, a community rehabilitation program DRS frequently utilizes to provide one-on-one services.

Through community-based assessment services, Ismael was able to participate in some hands-on work experience at four different job sites. One of those was Perkins Restaurant, which he liked the best.

DRS continued to contract with Goodwill to provide Ismael with services to help him learn specific responsibilities for this work site. A job coach from Goodwill worked with him, teaching him required tasks and appropriate workplace behavior.

Ismael admits that he was “like an uncaged tornado running rampant” before he started working with his job coach. However, with the help he received from DRS and Goodwill and with the support from his mother and family, he is in a much better place, and he found a job that suits him.

Perkins Restaurant General Manager Tom Smith ultimately hired Ismael, and he feels the partnership to bring him on board with the restaurant was a win-win for everyone.

Smith explained that Ismael’s responsibilities include doing dishes, taking out the trash, and sweeping and mopping floors, but he is willing to do anything asked of him.

Moore describes Ismael as outgoing, flexible, likable and determined, and he puts those traits forward at his job.

According to Smith, Ismael is a go-getter, and he wants to please everyone, and he does that, which makes him an asset to the restaurant.

Ismael was voted homecoming king during his senior year of high school, which he is very proud of.

He is also proud of getting the job at Perkins. Meeting that goal was important to him so he could help others, get out of his house and earn money.

Ismael is grateful for the opportunity to work at Perkins and appreciates the help he received along the way.

In the future, he may go back to school. His interests are vast and range from teaching special education to practicing cosmetology.

Right now, Ismael chooses to not let his disability get to him and to focus on his abilities, and he encourages others to do the same.

“This is to anybody else who has ADD, OCD, ADHD, or any learning or physical disability. Don’t let your critics, don’t let your haters get to you,” said Ismael. “Your biggest source of motivation is yourself because you can be your own hero, but sometimes you can be your own villain … be the hero you need to be.”

Ismael Calzadawas selected as an Ability Works Award Winner in 2022. The annual Ability Works Awards honor one outstanding consumer from each of the agency’s six districts, coinciding each October with National Disability Employment Awareness Month.