Eric Finds Success at Sunridge Middle School

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PENDLETON — Eric Virgil is an outgoing man who loves traveling, karate, and going to Portland Trailblazer games.

And now he has a paycheck to support his passions.

Eric, 42, works 20 hours per week as a custodian at Sunridge Middle School in Pendleton. He started working at Sunridge in May 2017 after spending many years in a sheltered workshop.

His provider, Horizon Project, was in the process of closing its sheltered workshop to focus primarily on community employment, along with day activities. Eric had worked as a courtesy clerk in his early 20s but due to lack of support, was not able to maintain that job. Starting in 2015, Horizon began having the conversation with Eric and his mother, Jan Schroth, about community employment. Eric has significant support needs, and there was concern about his ability to transition to a community job.

Eric has become a valuable member of the Sunridge Middle School community through his work.

“I wasn’t ready yet,” Eric said. “My mom encouraged me to work in the community.”

Eric said he loves his current job. He likes the people, and the peaceful atmosphere of the school in the morning. In his last few years at Horizon, Eric had done janitorial work as part of a contract, and specifically requested a custodian position when looking at community employment. He preferred the work compared to more chaotic environments.

“It’s a good job,” Eric said. “I work really hard.”

Dave Williams, principal at Sunridge Middle School, said Eric is a valuable team member who gets along equally well with the students and his coworkers.

“Eric had some experience doing this type of work and we felt confident he was able to do the job,” Dave said. “He seemed like he would be a good team member and we were proven right.”

Eric is proud of a recent raise he received for doing a good job. He said he also appreciates the support he receives from his job coach at Horizon Project. With his paycheck, he is planning a cruise to the Caribbean and continues to regularly attend basketball games.

“He’s always positive and the kids pick up on that and respond to that,” Dave said. “You can’t beat that smile of his.”

Eric’s mom, Jan Schroth, encouraged him to find work in their community. “I’m happy that the State is providing this level of support for people.”

To read stories on amazing Oregonians, check out our ‘Amazing Oregonians‘ section!

About Author

Angela Yeager is a Communications Officer with the Department of Human Services' Employment First initiative. Employment First is a collaboration with the Office of Developmental Disabilities Services, Vocational Rehabilitation, and the Oregon Department of Education to promote community employment for Oregonians with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

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