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Pandemic Offered Pathway to Discover New Passion for Our Client Mario

Mario, who has always been helpful and close with his peers, had to adjust to experiencing parts of his life behind a screen during the pandemic as many of us have. Even so, he has remained committed to his Community Integration Services program with Toward Maximum Independence (TMI), a nonprofit serving individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, via virtual sessions. He has stayed busy at home working on reading, math, crafts, and writing activities. Mario is a happy, tech-savvy, and thoughtful social butterfly who discovered his passion for art during the pandemic.

It wasn’t until Mario was introduced to a wood painting workshop called “Alebrijes Workshop” by his TMI

Job Coach Floricel Guzman that he was able to tap into his artistic side. The workshop, organized by the El Centro City Cultural Center and Recreation Department, reminded Mario of his favorite movie Coco. The virtual class allowed Mario to express the color and mysticism of the celebration of the Mexican holiday Day of the Dead. Mario created several whimsical carvings depicting animals and imaginary creatures.

While the pandemic has been hard for so many, Mario sought opportunities to make his time at home more bearable by focusing on new projects until he can return to in-person services with his TMI program.

“Mario is not only my client, but he is also my friend,” said Floricel. “It is a pleasure to be his Job Coach and I am very proud of his accomplishments.”

We love your art, Mario. Great job!

(Thank you to Floricel for contributing to this story and for continuing to be a wonderful Job Coach even during the toughest of times.)

The TMI Community Integration Services program seeks to assist our clients with finding employment if they desire and/or help them integrate into the community by volunteering at local businesses. We assist our clients with being contributing members of society.


Toward Maximum Independence (TMI) has been transforming the lives of children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities since 1981 and the Deaf and Hard of Hearing since 2000. In 2020, we launched Disabled Veteran Employment Services. TMI strives to help our clients to realize their hopes and dreams by providing Employment Solutions, Community Living and Family Support Services throughout San Diego, Riverside and Imperial Counties. To stay connected with us, follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Together we can share acceptance and awareness, ultimately contributing to further inclusion.


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