PAVEing a Path

Reprinted from PN October 2017

For 10 years, PVA's PAVE program has been providing a way for veterans with disabilities and their families to find success in their careers and life.

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As National Disability Employment Awareness Month is celebrated in October, Paralyzed Veterans of America’s (PVA) award-winning Paving Access for Veterans Employment (PAVE) program is also making an observance. It’s been a decade since PAVE first started helping veterans, caregivers and spouses. More than a project to help people get “a job,” PAVE helps them find meaningful careers. The program dispels the myths, challenges stereotypes and creates opportunities for military families to rebuild their lives after a setback. 

PAVE’s success is demonstrated in the impact on the lives of the veterans and families it serves. The program may be 10 years old this year, but one thing that never grows old is the success stories of people like veteran Edgar Machado, his wife, Laura, and their two young children, Julius and Nyema.

“I Got Stuck”

After serving eight years in the Marine Corps with deployments to Iraq and Japan, Edgar wanted to go into law enforcement, but a spinal-cord injury not only forced him to change those plans and turned his life upside down, it had a drastic effect on his wife.

“When I saw Edgar lying in that hospital injured, it was heartbreaking,” Laura says. “He was the core to our family and the foundation. Seeing him there helpless was devastating. There was nothing I could do to fix this. I couldn’t change anything and I couldn’t help him. That was where I got stuck.”

Just like they do for other families in this situation, things seemed bleak for the Machados. However, a bedside visit with Edgar and Laura from PAVE counselor Susan Sprayberry planted the seeds about moving forward and putting their lives back together. Sprayberry was part of Edgar’s rehabilitation care team at the Department of Veterans of Affairs (VA) hospital where he was being treated. She talked to Edgar and Laura about what jobs they might be interested in and about Edgar possibly going back to school.Once they were ready, Sprayberry did much of the legwork to help Edgar apply to college so he could pursue a degree in information technology. She even went with him to campus to help get him registered for classes, which he started this fall. Meanwhile, Sprayberry encouraged Laura to pursue her own passion — photography. She also helped set Laura up for entrepreneurial marketing courses. Laura hadn’t picked up a camera since Edgar’s accident and didn’t think she could do it.

“I felt as if getting back to my career would not be possible,” Laura says. “Working with Susan has assured me that I have not lost a part of myself.”

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Shelly D. Stewart is PVA’s PAVE program director. 




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