As the Regional Director, Eric oversees VAL operations within Franklin & Grand Isle counties. In particular, he keeps an eye on the budget, networks with the community to bring attention to programs and services, and supervises a staff of eight individuals across different programs such as: high school completion, English Language Learning, and other adult-based education services.
Eric began his higher education journey at Northern Vermont University (called Johnson State College at the time). However, after two years, he realized the school was not the right fit for him and took some time off to work. He earned his Associate’s Degree before transferring to the University of Vermont where he completed his undergraduate degree in Secondary Education. During this time, he also obtained his teaching license. After earning his undergraduate degree, Eric taught high school Social Studies for a couple years, but found the profession too restrictive. He began working at the Shelburne Museum in the summers and ended up getting a job in education at the Vermont Historical Society where he ran the Vermont History Day program — a project-based competition for middle and high school students. Eric then took a detour into workforce development and worked a variety of jobs in this area, including being a housing counselor for those leaving the criminal justice system. He eventually found his way back to a career in education with VAL.
In terms of Eric’s work at VAL, aspects he most enjoys are engaging the students and the staff which he described as “a great bunch of folks.” He emphasized that the staff are really good at what they do and really care about their students.
When asked about his work-life balance, Eric talked about his biggest hobby: flat track roller derby. He said it is the perfect opportunity to get rid of any kind of frustration. However, he has unfortunately been unable to participate as of late due to COVID-19. Eric also talked about his volunteer work at several non-profit organizations including: the Restorative Justice Program, being a part of the re-entry panel for the Circles of Support and Accountability, and being the secretary-treasurer of the Franklin/Grand Isle Bookmobile.
Eric said that he “could go on and on” about why VAL’s work matters. In a more practical sense, he said that most of the employers in Franklin and Grand Isle Counties require high school credentials. He explained the “wage-earning power” of a high school diploma, with those having a diploma earning significantly more than those without. He also explained that VAL also provides personal benefits for the students, particularly a sense of accomplishment and pride in completing their personal goals.
By Rebecca Shames, VAL Development and Communications Intern