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AWARE Ink Newsletter

  • jpeterson

A force of inspiration

Updated: Dec 28, 2021


It’s not every day you meet a guy as driven and determined as Eric. He’s 28 years old and living in his own apartment in Billings, MT. He’s got a competitive side, and if you present him with a challenge, you better be ready for him to blow past it (Above, Eric examining rocks near the Yellowstone River).


Julie Curtis, his AWARE Targeted Case Manager, has seen first-hand how motivated Eric becomes when faced with obstacles. “He’s a force of inspiration for everybody around him,” she says as she talks about his latest ambitions.


As you get to know more about Eric, you learn he has an Autism diagnosis and can have a stutter when he speaks. He also has a history of being bullied by others growing up, but he doesn’t let any of that get in his way. Instead, he uses it as his motivation to exceed all expectations and surpass his goals.


Not quite a year ago, Eric found himself looking at classes at the Lincoln Center but had become unsatisfied with the direction his life was going. So, he took matters into his own hands. He applied to MSU-B instead, wanting to study geology and mineralogy. He did this completely on his own, unbeknownst to anyone. He sent in his application packet, and then he waited. And waited…


Until finally, a letter from the university arrived just before last spring. He had been accepted! He was thrilled, but now he had to tell everyone and figure out a way to actually make it happen. He had no idea how he was going to afford his books let alone tuition (Eric pictured right).


He got together with his team. His parents, Julie Curtis (TCM), and Chris Beckett (Job Connection) all came together to help him figure it out.


In working with Chris, he already held a job at Albertsons that could help him with some of the costs, but he would need more. He figured he could sell some of his belongings (he has a lot of CDs), and he could drive less frequently to minimize transportation costs. He could also learn to cook so that he was less reliant on take-out. It was a great start, but he still needed to come up with more savings.


Through the support of his parents, Chris, and Julie, Eric found additional resources within Vocational Rehab that could help cover the costs of his dreams at MSU-B. First, they agreed to help him on a trial basis. They wanted to see if he could stick it out for the spring semester. Well, he did and went on to earn a B on his final exam. He was determined to keep pushing forward.


This coming fall semester, he is ready for success. His tuition and expenses have been paid for, and he has a well-structured set of tutoring hours lined up. He has a goal in mind, and he’s determined to make it happen. It’s a dream that he’s not letting go of.


We have no doubt that Eric will keep pushing himself to achieve success. His ambitions are high, and he’s surrounded by a team of supporters that can push him to the finish line. He’s a shining example of our commitment to helping people live independent lives. Go Eric!

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