Gerald Ross grew up in the hinterlands of Michigan. Saint Louis is the geographical center of the lower peninsula, and Gratiot County was the least populated and poorest county in the lower peninsula. Those challenges prompted a strong work ethic among the graduating classes. Gerald’s brother Andy was born with Down Syndrome and a myriad of other challenges and introduced him to the world of services and uncomfortable exchanges. Gerald attended Alma College, where he majored in Psychology, and moved quickly onto a master’s program at Central Michigan University. Gerald focused his studies on Neurodegenerative Disorders, including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s Diseases.
Life is always a pivot and people tend to see things that are hidden from others. A friend suggested that he take a position in the Admissions Office at Alma College, and he spent the next eight years recruiting high school students to attend college. He worked with schools in Michigan, Illinois, and Ohio.
One of the statements that Gerald frequently told students focused on adaptability. He would say, “in this modern world, people are going to have at least three careers (not jobs, different careers). And there’s a good chance that the career that you will have at the end of the path, you aren’t even aware it exists.” And to prove his point, he pivoted again, taking a job as a QIDP (although at the time, we still used the MR designation), with Independence, a small agency in Ravenna, Ohio. During his time as a Q, Gerald worked with some of the most engaging and challenging individuals in the system. He spent the next eight years challenging a system that regarded people as a series of tasks, goals, and achievements. It called it “person centered,” but rarely took anything personal into account. Despite the Quixotic nature of his quest, Gerald continued to encourage, listen, learn, grow, and engage.
Gerald took his fight to the trenches then, becoming a “Staff Development Coordinator” and training new folks in the field about the very basic and somewhat specialized ideas. Later he moved to Echoing Hills Village, first in Coshocton, then in Dayton, to be the administrator for large Intermediate Care Facilities. During his time with EHVI, Gerald oversaw day to day operations, and some unusual happenings, like when the EF1 tornado slammed into the front of the home, displacing 32 people and starting a year long trek to get everyone home.
The last few years, Gerald spent in Michigan, experiencing the world of the Adult Foster Care system and gaining perspective and insight into different foci and patterns.
Along the way, Gerald has opened new homes, downsized homes into Supported Living arrangements, written behavior supports and eliminated them. He is a good listener, seeking to understand the details of any challenge. He has made some incredible friends along this journey and is eager to continue his trek towards the future when human beings (who happen to have unique and wonderful challenges in their lives) are treated like human beings.