“[My mother and brother] just thought it’d be great if I got out of New Jersey and kind of opened myself up to new experiences,” he said. “Which, honestly, I could probably say without that, I probably wouldn’t have made it out of Palmyra.”
After graduating from East Carolina University, Eric decided to move to San Diego to stay with another brother. He started working in a behavioral school as a teacher’s aide, and “fell in love” with working with kids, specifically those who are high risk and live in low socioeconomic neighborhoods.
Following that position, he worked in an outpatient therapy program in a position similar to our youth care workers, where he gained clinical knowledge.
“I was like, oh this is great,” he said. “I love this and I’m really good at connecting with kids. I was like, I should probably make a career out of this.”
Eric then decided to pursue his master’s degree. During his time in grad school, he worked in an internship with kids who were suffering from psychosis due to illness like bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and schizoaffective disorder. He also worked in a juvenile detention hall in San Diego with kids aged 14 to 19 who were convicted of violent offenses.
“That was the realest thing I did in my life,” he said. [Being] in the units with them [and] playing cards with them, doing therapy … There’s gang fights and stuff like right next to you, but you start learning they don’t go after you [because you’ve built] those relationships. So I really learned how to be attuned to kids and understand what it means when they’re doing these different behaviors.
“I had the stereotype [in my mind] that kids that are involved in gangs and black and brown kids are just violent, aggressive kids and I just found it’s so much different. And I really fell in love with working with kids at that point.”
From that job, he came to Mercy Home. During his time here, he has worked in both Mahoney Home with kids aged 14-17 and Noha Home.
A part of his job that Eric really enjoys is the opportunity to hear the perspectives of our young men.
“Every single one has a different story,” he said. “They have a different way how they got here and they have so much information to share with you. … I get energy from interacting with them. I coach basketball [at Mercy Home]. I just tried to get into as much as I can, immerse myself in Mercy Home culture, to get next to these kids because these kids are, honestly, they’re amazing.”