Even though Eric Hogan earned a bachelor's degree in industrial technology, he has struggled for the past 12 years to find a job in his field because he has Asperger's syndrome. His experience inspired him to form the nonprofit organization, Autistic Advancement, to break the stigma associated with autism.
"I went to 15 to 20 job fairs in the last few years with no success, and every job I've had comes with low wages. It took a toll on me mentally," he says.
Asperger's syndrome is a high-functioning level of autism characterized by behavioral and social difficulties. Despite his disability, Hogan, 36, said he excelled in academics at Mississippi State University--earning a 4.0 grade point average.
On Dec. 11, the nonprofit hosts "Looking Beyond the Autistic Spectrum," a fundraiser at Hal & Mal's to help the organization integrate people with autism with the workforce. Hogan started the nonprofit earlier this year to education employers about autism, and set hiring criteria for companies to follow.
"We want to create a designation for autistic-friendly (businesses)," the Jackson native says. "To get this designation, a company will have to follow a list of rule of procedures. ... One of the ultimate goals of this organization is to create an economic renaissance in the Jackson area by helping entrepreneurs start businesses that hire people with autism."
"Looking Beyond the Autistic Spectrum" is Saturday, Dec. 11 at Hal & Mal's from 5 p.m. to midnight. The event features entertainment by Scott Albert Johnson, Caroline Crawford, Taylor Hildebrand, Cody Cox and Rhonda Richmond. Several area restaurants, including Lumpkin's BBQ, Congress Street Bar and Grill, Parlor Market and Basil's, will cater the event. Hogan will give a speech at 8:30 p.m. about his personal experience with autism. Tickets are $30 per person, $50 per couple and $15 for students, and can be purchased online. For more information about Autistic Advancement, visit the organization's website.
Eric is a good guy - outgoing, humble (you probably had to twist his arm to get his GPA) and intelligent, and obviously he takes initiative to change the status quo. Great qualities that any employer should be interested in. Thanks for highlighting his efforts!
- Leland Jr
Eric is a really great guy. One of the friendliest people in Jackson. Honestly, I had no idea that he has Asperger's and I've had a little training while working for Mississippi State Hospital. I totally agree with Leland that his is a humble person and he's a fantastic ambassador for this cause!
I concur. Eric is a great guy. Great spirit. In the few times Ive met him he was upbeat and very PRO-Jackson. Had no idea of his achievements. Dont worry Eric, you'll find something great soon.