Customer Story: Phil
Phil's story reflects the challenges and triumphs in life that make us who we are and show our true character. Phil was disappointed in not being able to graduate with his high school class, yet he became the Chair of the Oregon Self Advocacy Coalition (OSAC), a responsibility he takes great pride in. Facing obstacles along the way, Phil is exceeding his own, and other's expectations.
The position with OSAC gives Phil an opportunity to give a voice to adults with developmental disabilities, and encourage others to succeed in their employment goals. The OSAC meets every other month in Salem, and addresses issues such as employment, outreach, healthcare, and budgets. He likes being the Chair so much that he hopes to continue for another year. “I've always felt like a leader,” he says. “I like having the reins, and being able to take charge. Being the Head Chair has been a challenge, but I like having a challenge thrown my way. It helps me learn to be a good leader.”
His leadership skills were honed at a People in Policymaking conference in Berkeley, California in 2014. “It was the opportunity of a lifetime,” Phil says. “It was an eye-opener for me in so many ways.” He came away from it having learned what he felt were important leadership qualities. “You need to be positive, tell it like it is, have a good level head, and want to learn,” he says.
His own employment goals started at the age of 15 when he began learning landscaping at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia. After he and his mother moved to Oregon, he gained even more job skills. Eventually Phil was hired to do landscaping work with Scherler Investment Properties, owner of the Periwinkle Creek Apartments, in Albany. “Luke really appreciates me,” says Phil, about working with Scherler. “We talk about what needs to be done, and he trusts me to do it.” Phil likes doing landscaping because he likes to be outdoors.
When he's not working, Phil enjoys hanging out with his friends in Sweet Home, going to Foster Lake, or going to the Oregon Coast and walking in the water. “Sometimes I get homesick for Virginia,” he says, “but then I think of the forests and ocean in Oregon.”
Phil credits RCO, where he has been a customer for about 8 years, with helping him to stay employed, and get the help he needs with other life skills, such as shopping, keeping appointments, staying organized, and getting out and about in the community.
RCO offers a lot of options for people with developmental disabilities,” he says. “They've helped me a lot since I've been with them.” Phil has worked with two Personal Support Workers (PSW). He also enjoys working with his Personal Agent.
“(My first PSW) taught me a lot,” says Phil. “He helped me with anger problems, and communication skills, and social skills. My attitude improved after working with him.”
“He wants to represent people with disabilities,” says his mother, “and be sure that they are listened to, and inspired to achieve their potential. They need to be included in society, not segregated.” Phil echoes that sentiment in a You Tube video for OSAC, where he says, “We can open a door, but you have to choose to go through it.”
Hopefully, Phil's achievements will inspire others to work towards their goals as well. “What I'm most proud of,” he says, thoughtfully, “is how far I've come.” That's a lot to be proud of.