When a support team clears the path, it’s time to do the work
Sometimes we look at high school graduation as just a celebration that wraps up twelve years of school. But for Cyrus Belizi, graduation from high school was just the beginning of several new opportunities that have set his life on an exciting new path.
Belizi, age 19, graduated from Bend High School in 2022. A few months before graduation, he began working with Adrianne Goodrich, Youth Transition Specialist (YTP) at Bend Senior High School. Goodrich had recently learned about a possible opening at Bend Camper Company. She thought it might be a good fit for Belizi, even as a temporary internship.
As they walked together from Bend High to check out the business, Belizi questioned whether he even wanted to try this out or not. After meeting with Chip Conrad, lead director and builder at Bend Camper Company, he agreed to give it a few days. As Goodrich described, it wasn’t long before everyone realized this was a win-win, and Belizi’s temporary work experience grew into permanent, paid employment.
Finding a mentor at Bend Camper Company
“My first few days here, I was very unsure about what I was doing and unsure whether I wanted to continue this work. But then we started building shelves in the vans and I got to start making things,” said Belizi.
Belizi’s responsibilities have grown as he learns new skills. He may install flooring into a van one day and help around the office and shop the next. He’s learned to take on projects that require design skills and craftsmanship–like creating a large new keyholder board with the shop logo. It was so well-designed that he was asked to make two more!
Conrad, his supervisor and mentor, appreciates Belizi’s persistence with problem-solving. “When I ask Cyrus to do something, he figures out how to get it done. He checks online videos and looks for the answers before he asks for help,” said Conrad.
Conrad reached out to the Transition Co-op, and to Bend High, to offer an internship at his business because he knows firsthand the importance of positive work experiences for transition students. This understanding comes from his years of mentoring students as a teacher and as a coach, and from his own personal experiences with learning disabilities. As a mentor, he focuses on good work habits in addition to craftsmanship.
“Hard skills like using a drill or fixing a cabinet are important. But soft skills like showing up on time, figuring out how to do a job right, finishing what you start—those are what make work successful,” he said. He added that Belizi has never once been late, even when he walked two miles to get to work.
A license, a scholarship and a new future career
Soon after Belizi became part of the Bend Camper Company team, Goodrich helped him enroll in Vocational Rehabilitation (VR). This was important, she explained, so he could access driver training class. VR can offer behind-the-wheel training for enrolled clients over the age of 18. Belizi had been saving to buy a car and was able to complete the training, pass the driving test and purchase his own car.
In addition to working with Goodrich on job skills, Belizi took the advice of a teacher at Bend High and stopped in at the Future Center. This office helps students explore careers and post-secondary education.
For Belizi, that meant applying for the welding career pathway, a certificate program at Central Oregon Community College. The Future Center staff also helped him apply for a scholarship through the Oregon Promise grant. Before learning about the scholarship, Belizi never considered college as a possibility, he said. Now, six months after graduating high school, he sees a new path to a career in welding.
“I wouldn’t be doing all of this without the help from Adrianne and Chip,” said Belizi.
He also recognizes that while a support team can open doors, he had to do the work for himself. “There were times when I didn’t think I could do something. Then I pushed myself to keep at it and figure it out. Sometimes you have to just push yourself harder, and then you can do it,” he said.