News & Information > News Releases

October 9, 2019

CONTACT: Melanie Mowry Etters
Communication Director

Independence is a Pleasure

By Nicholas J. Bique

FORT MYERS, FL – Where do you begin when you are hoping to achieve great things? For Luis Rodriguez, the answer was simple: Publix.

Rodriguez, 22, works as a Front-end Clerk at Publix in Fort Myers, where he bags groceries, helps shoppers take groceries to their car, returns the shopping buggies, and lends a hand wherever he’s needed.

For Rodriguez, the opportunity to work is unmatched, and the independence he has earned is its greatest reward. “I like having my job because, with my money, I can independently buy myself clothes, things for my dog, and food. I recently bought myself a new bedroom set, which made me very happy. I also like having a job because it has helped me to make more friends,” said Rodriguez.

At Publix, Shantae Smith, one of Rodriguez’s supervisors, said, “Everyone loves working with Luis; he’s a hard worker. Luis makes all our customers feel welcome; he’s a friendly, familiar face in our community.” Rodriguez regularly receives high marks for his exceptional work ethic and job performance.

Rodriguez has developmental disabilities and receives services from the Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD). October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month, and APD is highlighting the workplace achievements of people with disabilities and the employers who hire them.

Rodriguez says that he likes his supervisors and co-workers, and he feels at home with his Publix family. “Yes, I feel part of the team at Publix because the people I work with are nice and include me in team activities. My job coach is nice, too,” Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez is relatively new to Florida, having grown up in California, born to parents originally from Cuba. He knew Florida had opportunities he could take advantage of, but before being hired at Publix, Rodriguez didn’t know if would be able to find work because of his disability. Now, he feels much more confident in his ability to advocate for himself and communicate with his supervisors and peers. In November, he’ll be celebrating two years working at Publix.

When he’s not making shopping a pleasure, Rodriguez likes to go shopping for himself and his dog, Molly. Together, they like to play with his brother and his brother’s dog, Rocky. Rodriguez enjoys spending his free time at home in his room, which he takes pride in keeping tidy. “I also like going out to eat to enjoy some of my favorite foods, such as Chinese food, Publix chicken, sushi, and salads,” says Rodriguez.

It is this independence, which allows him to thrive and enjoy life’s simple pleasures, that motivates Rodriguez to dream big and aim high. His goal in life is to become a successful six-figure professional with a big house, pool, and Maserati. Publix is just the beginning for Rodriguez.

APD supports people with developmental disabilities to live, learn, and work in their communities. The agency annually serves more than 55,000 Floridians with autism, cerebral palsy, spina bifida, intellectual disabilities, Down syndrome, Phelan-McDermid syndrome, and Prader-Willi syndrome. For more information about the Agency for Persons with Disabilities, visit or call toll free 1-866-APD-CARES (1-866-273-2273).