Autism Spectrum Disorder Residential Program Interviews

Interview w/ Richard Essien, Assistant Supervisor at ASD

Name: Richard Essien
Position: Residential Assistant Supervisor
Years in Current Position: 1
Former Positions: Youth Development Professional
Years with Hillcrest: 5 years

How did you learn about Hillcrest? 
Actually, a friend. When I was back home [in Ghana]. He introduced me to the program and since I was already teaching, he thought I should apply. So he gave me the link and that was it.

Did you have a background related to the job? 
Yes, I’d been teaching math and science back home. And also back home, I was teaching a mix [of kids]…some of [my students] were autistic. So [the job at Hillcrest] wasn’t difficult to get used to. The class that I was teaching in Ghana, there were three or four kids who were having the same issues. So seeing them here, it wasn’t anything new to me.

What appealed to you about the job? 
When you come home and are missing those kids around you. You’re missing the friends around you. So then when you return, they say “Richard, you’re here! Richard, you’re back! How are you?” That kind of thing. It makes you feel, at least, there are actually people watching you. There are people here depending on you for you to help. So it’s the kids, and the staff in general. The people around me.

What was the happiest moment for you while working for Hillcrest? 
The very first day I started the job. The first day I came to the job, I looked at it how people were telling me it would be like. And then my first day, it was similar to the job that I was doing back home. I didn’t see anything different here. People said, “Oh, the kids are like this.” During training they were telling us to be careful.

I noticed that once you build that interpersonal relationship with them, you let them know that this is what you are here for, to help them out, then you find a way of working with them. And it was easy for me. I didn’t find it difficult my first year here.

Who is the most influential person in your work life right now? 
I think my supervisors. My two supervisors, Josh Love and Jenni Zuna. Before I started as a supervisor, I was looking at how they managed this just the two of them. And the first week that I started, or the following week, one of them called out and one of them was on vacation. So it was just me by myself. I thought, “Really?” But I thought about how they’d taught me [to lead], so it was easy for me.

Paul Asilidjoe, the residential coordinator, and Ed Horsfall, another assistant supervisor, have also had a big influence.

Do you have any advice for new employees?
My only advice would be when you are coming to a job like this, even though you are coming to get paid, just put your feet into the shoes of those kids and think, “If a brother or sister of mine were in this situation, how best would I help? How useful could I be to them?” The money will come alright. But once you are enjoying the job that you are doing, it feels even better than what they are paying us. So my advice is just put yourself into the shoes of these kids. If you are able to think, “this is how they are feeling. This is probably what this student is looking for,” by the way he communicates with me. How best do I help?

What kind of person do you think succeeds as a YDP or as an assistant supervisor? 
A committed person. Whoever is committed to the job. Someone who is open to everybody. And whoever is willing to assist. If you are willing to help people, this actually might be a good job for you.

And [for assistant supervisors], take advice from people. It doesn’t matter who it is, whether a YDP or whoever. Sometimes I run over to be assistance [to YDP]. Yes, I’m the supervisor, right? But if a YDP, if a staff is saying, “We are trying this for a student. Let’s wait and see,” I will not intervene in it. I wouldn’t be like, “Oh, I’m the supervisor, so once I’m here all of you get back and let me do this.” No, no, no. Take advice from staff also. So give them the room to operate and learn from them as well. 

Do you have any favorite stories about the kids? 
When I was having an interaction with a student, she was telling me everything about how she got here. She was telling me about her past experiences. And she was narrating everything to me.  Then she asked, “Richard, can I trust you?” I asked her why? “Because I need to tell people that I trust.” And I said, “Okay then. That’s good. You are safe.”


*******This interview has been lightly edited and condensed*******

We’re looking for dynamic, compassionate people to join our team! Check out our career openings. We’re waiting to hear from you. 

Don’t forget to read our interview with Michael Quinlan, Moderate Disabilities Teacher at Highpoint.

2 comments on “Interview w/ Richard Essien, Assistant Supervisor at ASD

  1. Courage Kwame Lagudah

    I’ve been touched and motivated by the interactions with Essien and Darian.
    I will love to read and learn more from you guys.


  2. Touching indeed@kwame, the commitment and passion to work for the kids. It’s a calling, you know..


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