Jose Fernandez-Gill: Paying it Forward - National Ability Center

Jose Fernandez-Gill: Paying it Forward

It’s because of the confidence and self esteem I learned through skiing that I’ve been able to move forward.

 

In 2012 Jose Fernandez-Gill moved to Salt Lake City, Utah from the mainland of Hawaii, and found a passion and the confidence that would change his world for the better.

A U.S. veteran, Jose had felt overwhelmed by his diagnosis with severe post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as well as severe general anxiety disorder. Despite it’s impact on his life, Jose held his diagnosis back, hoping no one would find out. Eventually, he accepted his diagnosis and started on the path to healing with his new service dog, Pele and recommendations that exercise could help him control his panic attacks.

As a self-taught skier, Jose took to the slopes of New Mexico and Utah. While he loved the sport, Jose’s skiing was often cut short by injury or panic and anxiety attacks. All of that changed when, one day at Alta Ski Resort, Jose was referred to the National Ability Center.

Jose shares, “Since I learned to ski properly and with confidence, I really enjoy getting out on the slopes and taking six runs early in the morning before the hill gets crowded. I do this about three or four times a week and by the time I am done, I’ve gotten a great work out—and more importantly, some meditation too. It helps clear my mind, gives me energy, helps put things into perspective and gives me a chance to reflect on things.”

 

Since I learned to ski properly and with confidence, I really enjoy getting out on the slopes … It  helps clear my mind, gives me energy, helps put things into perspective, and gives me a chance to reflect on things.

But, the possibilities opened up for Jose by the simple act of skiing were unexpected. After years of battling discrimination in his work environments from employers who didn’t understand his diagnosis, Jose’s psychologist recommended he apply to the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), 8(a) Business Development program, which provides special support for businesses which are managed/controlled by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals.

Despite the encouragement, Jose was intimidated. The 8(a) Business Development program is know to be extremely selective, only accepting 20% of all applicants and requiring a year or more and anywhere from $2,000 to $5000 dollars to complete.

Then, on the last day of his ski session lessons with the National Ability Center and with a few runs under his belt, Jose decided to take one more run down Park City’s Treasure Hollow to connect all he had learned. Jose skied down the run with ease, and the confidence overwhelmed him. He then headed to Pay Day, which had always scared him, for yet another run in hope of again experiencing the feelings from his previous run. Jose realized his lessons had been paying off; his feelings of anxiety had faded while his confidence began to shine. He was skiing confidently down the runs, and smiling all the way.

In this moment, Jose decided he would take a leap. He would apply for the Business Development program. If he could overcome the anxiety and fear skiing once made him feel, he could certainly embrace the application process for the SBA’s program and find a way to overcome that anxiety as well.

 

It’s because of the confidence and self esteem I learned through skiing that I’ve been able to move forward,” Jose reflects. “I honestly feel that between my docs and the NAC, I’ve gotten back my life; or at the very least, I’m on the way to making it what I want

Just a few months later, Jose was accepted into the program. He bought his first dental practice this past January.

“It’s because of the confidence and self esteem I learned through skiing that I’ve been able to move forward,” Jose reflects. “I honestly feel that between my docs and the NAC, I’ve gotten back my life; or at the very least, I’m on the way to making it what I want.”

Jose is now giving back to the National Ability Center by volunteering his time at our Mountain Center as an integral part of the more than 1,200 volunteers that keep our programs running and affordable 365 days a year.

Jose shares, “I believe in karma and paying things forward. Since I don’t have the money to give at the moment, I thought I’d give my time and my story. Thanks to the NAC, I learned what I could do. Why not help give that to someone else?”

I believe in karma and paying things forward. Since I don’t have the money to give at the moment, I thought I’d give my time and my story. Thanks to the NAC, I learned what I could do. Why not help give that to someone else?

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