Leo has worked hard for his independence, and he’s always willing to share his story with anyone who will listen. He has a developmental disability that affects his cognitive ability and his verbal functioning, and before enrolling in the Cortez Semi-Independent Living program six years ago, his living situation was less than ideal. When he learned about Greater Opportunities’ Semi-Independent Living Program at the Cortez Apartments, he was thrilled for the opportunity to strike out on his own. Looking back on his time at the Cortez Apartments, he is grateful for all the skills he’s acquired, lessons he’s learned, and friends he’s met. When he graduated from the program he moved to an apartment in San Jose and has lived there successfully for almost four years. Leo is a tall, amiable guy with a great sense of humor.

Making friends and spending time with people are important to him and he made many lasting friendships while at the Cortez Apartments, “Friends are important because they keep you safe and they are there for you if anything happens.” He met his girlfriend Geneva at Greater Opportunities, too. They’ve been together for four years. Since graduating from Cortez, Leo and Geneva receive Independent Living Services (ILS) through Greater Opportunities. ILS caregiver Jackie Ramirez has helped them learn how to exercise and eat right.

Leo has nothing but good things to say about his experience working with Jackie, “She is the best staff member ever. She helps a lot of clients, not just me. She taught me how to eat right, to cut out rice and bread. She taught me how to exercise and we would go out walking. I lost a lot of weight!” Some of the other things he liked most about the Cortez Apartments were the “cool and collected” atmosphere and the friendly staff.

While in the program, he attended classes on weekday afternoons where he learned how to keep his apartment clean, how to control his temper, and what to do in an emergency such as an earthquake or a fire. Leo also put his creative skills to good use during cooking class, where he learned all the important cooking techniques and how to safely use kitchen appliances. “My favorite class was cooking. They taught me how to cook and how to improve my cooking. Anything I can think of I can make. If you have a recipe that you like, you can add different ingredients so you can change it.”

For Leo, his time at the Cortez Apartments was truly a blessing because it provided the groundwork for independent living. “Everyone should come to Cortez; they will love it. The counselors will help them set a schedule, they’ll learn how to cook, they’ll learn about safety, and how to keep their apartment clean. They will be safe if anything happens because there’s always someone there. They will have someone to talk to, to comfort them, and if they’re sad there’s always someone there.”

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