Joel Pena- A Smile that Lights up the World

Joel Pena has always aspired to be an American Citizen. He was able move to the United States in 2012 from the Dominican Republic when he was 19 years old. Joel has Cerebral Palsy, but has never let it hold him back in life.

As a child, Joel had very little opportunity for education. He had a lot of setbacks and challenges to get to school due to no transportation- aside from his difficulty walking. Joel, like all of us, just needed the right support and opportunities to grow. Joel’s spirit and advocacy has never let his disability, poverty, neglects/abuses, or sexual orientation limit his dream. Thanks to DDS, The Arc, and Grimaldy Rios, Joel was able to find a Shared Living Home provider where he feels accepted and loved as a family member.

With the support of his team and technology Joel was able to successfully study for his U.S. Citizenship. This entailed learning how to read, write and learn English. After much effort and perseverance this year Joel finally received his American citizenship, 2 certificates of completion for English and is in the process of completing his GED.

Joel loves all types of music, fashion, and karaoke. He is also a great dancer, and animal lover. Joel’s ultimate goal in life is to become an inspirational speaker and mentor, especially for those going through similar things in life he did.

Today, Joel feels accepted in life. He is our greeter at The Arc Dances and also collects the entrance fee. This has helped him improve his interactions with other people, practice his English, and work on his money management skills. He is very appreciative and takes great pride in having the responsibility of this job.

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