Albert Valdez is a man with a mission: to inspire other people with disabilities. Employment Horizons, a local non-profit that provides job training and placement services to people with disabilities, is helping Valdez achieve his goal. Valdez, who has cerebral palsy, has been employed at Employment Horizons in Cedar Knolls for 12 years.
“This is the perfect setting for me – I got to know the staff, my co-workers, and I get out of the house,” says Valdez. Through Employment Horizons, Valdez discovered his true potential in helping others. He has always been an example and inspiration for his co-workers, with his great outlook and coach mentality. Valdez served as a baseball coach for both Rutgers University and Wood-Ridge High School, a career spanning more than 40 years and numerous recognitions. He has even been inducted into the Bergen County Semi-Pro Baseball Hall of Fame.
However, his outlook changed as his disease progressed. After an injury due to a fall, Valdez became depressed.
“I didn’t want anything to do with anybody,” he recalled. “Then, I decided to take every day as it comes. Now, I wake up every morning and thank god I’m alive and can come to a place like this. Not many people with disabilities have an opportunity to come to a place to work.” Valdez discovered his true potential at that point – helping others with disabilities.
He approached Rachel Kehm, a counseling intern at Employment Horizons, about speaking at one of her graduate classes at Rutgers University. Kehm connected with a faculty member in the Department of Psychiatric Rehabilitation and Counseling Professions and set up a time for Valdez to visit the class. On Jan. 24, Valdez spoke to the Medical Aspects of Disability graduate class.
Valdez spoke to the class about his life – his baseball career, his family, and his disability. The coach in him was evident.
“It’s not easy, but you can’t give up. You have to do what you can do. If you give up, forget it…you might as well pack it in. You have to be persistent to really get what you want.” Valdez said his goal for the speech was to inspire just one student. He was successful. “You really inspired me today. I was down and you really helped me. You’ve inspired me to keep going and doing what I need to do,” commented one student.
Valdez wants to continue speaking publically about his life and disability.
“If you want it bad enough you go out and you get it,” he said. We have no doubt he will.
Employment Horizons is the premier not-for-profit agency providing comprehensive employment, training and job placement services to persons with disabilities and other disadvantages in the greater Morris County area. For more information about Employment Horizons and to learn about upcoming events, visit www.emhorizons.org.