“Without it, I would be nothing,” he said one evening as he began his shift at Middletown’s Wildwood Elementary School. Without this job, “I would just glue my butt to the couch and feel like a big crybaby, but now I get out there and do what people do in real life.”
The job is, indeed, routine, but according to his job coach, Brittany Gross, that’s a good thing for Aaron, who finds comfort in routines and consistency.
Aaron, 23, who lives with his parents in Monroe, will soon complete his probation period, making him a permanent employee. He hopes the upgrade in his job status will be one more step toward living on his own and getting a car.
“I want to be independent and do the things that most people do in real life,” he said. “I want to learn things on my own. I’m starting to get ready for my driving test. Me and my dad have been doing the back roads.”
At Wildwood, about a dozen of the second-floor classrooms are his domain. First, he makes a counter-clockwise tour, emptying trash cans and looking for notes on the doors with special instructions from teachers who have left for the day. On this evening, the school was hosting a fall festival and, in one of the rooms, a group of teachers were eating sandwiches around a child-size table during a break before the event. As Aaron handled his duties, the teachers remarked about his courtesy, diligence and sense of humor.
“He has a lot of interaction with the teachers and has a great relationship with all of them,” said Brittany, who provides services to the Butler County Board of Developmental Disabilities through ViaQuest, an independent provider. Her comment brought a gleam to Aaron’s eyes.
“I have had the reputation of being a troublemaker in the past,” Aaron confessed, referring to high school.
How did he get the job? “I heard they needed somebody to clean the school building. I’m pretty good at cleaning things at home.”
After some initial training, the full-time janitor at Wildwood took Aaron around and showed him the routine for cleaning the second floor. Aaron learns best with demonstrations, Brittany said, so he caught on right away and still follows the same path every night.
“I just come out here and do my job,” he said. “I do all the cleaning up and then I see what else needs to be done.”
“Do you think you’re doing a good job?” Brittany asked.
“I’m not hearing any complaints,” he quipped, noting that he often does extra things, like the time he took care of a spider that was terrorizing a teacher.
Aaron is an employee of Sodexo, the company that is under contract to clean Middletown City Schools. According to Chuck Huber, Aaron’s supervisor, he is the first person who receives supports from the Butler County Board of DD the company has hired.
“We are very happy with Aaron,” Chuck said. “I interviewed him personally and he just stuck out from a lot of the other applicants. He’s well-spoken and takes instructions very well.
“I will consider hiring other people the Board supports,” Chuck added. “It’s a way to give back to the community, to give guys like Aaron a chance to have a job and support themselves.”
In his easy-going way, Aaron tends to underplay his success, though it is apparent he’s proud of the progress he’s made.
“Basically,” he said, “I’m doing OK.”
His employers, however, see it as more than just “OK.”
“He may end up our most consistent and dedicated employee,” Chuck said. “I wish everyone was more like him.”
Why is community employment important? Because Employment WORKS for people with disabilities, businesses and the community everyone shares. The Ohio Employment First Initiative, implemented in 2012, states that the first option for a person receiving services should be community employment.
The Butler County Board of Developmental Disabilities has committed to putting more resources toward developing more community employment opportunities rather than the development of more traditional facility-based services. As well, Butler County Board of Developmental Disabilities makes it a priority to ensure the people we support have as many opportunities as possible to work in the community just like everyone else. We partner with a variety of businesses, vocational service providers, and educational institutions to provide initial and ongoing support, from finding a job to keeping it. For more information, visit our Employment WORKS web site.