Father finds best possible motivation for career, life change
By Blake Sebring
May 16, 2023
Because he is severely autistic, it’s doubtful Eric Jones will ever understand the sacrifices his father is making for him. But that’s OK, Shane Jones says, because he knows—and that’s enough to express his love for his 8-year-old son.
“What that really means to me is that I’m going to have that love in my house for the rest of my life,” Jones said.
That will be rewarding enough. But what happens someday after the father is gone? What services will be available and possible for the son then? That’s what drives Jones now, to build a better future for his son after that day comes. It’s anything but easy.
A 30-year-old student at Purdue University Fort Wayne, Jones is majoring in political science and economics. While also working full-time, he started attending PFW in 2017 as a part-time student. Jones finally took a full load of classes this academic year, participating remotely, attending night courses on campus, and staying current with help from professors.
“I can do it for one year,” he told himself.
Jones is certainly motivated, giving up a nearly 10-year career as a railroad freight conductor he enjoyed because the hours and locations were difficult, though the pay was good. The insurance didn’t cover Eric’s 40-hour weekly applied behavioral analysis therapy, and Jones knew he had to do better to provide for his wife, Christy, and their son.
As a result, he made a business decision for his family by choosing to study to become a lawyer with an interest in public policy. He wants to help others, maybe even specialists who can help prepare for Eric’s future.
The transition was tough because Jones is still a blue-collar worker at heart and loves those people, what they stand for, and what they have meant to this country. Ask about those co-workers, and he gushes respect and thankfulness for them.
That’s partly why his Honors Program project is titled “The Evolution of Labor Union Stratification and Its Impact on Political Power and Public Perception.”
“It’s exploring the variance between union and nonunion levels of favorability towards unionization,” Jones said. “If you are a union member, you are making 15% more with better wages for the same work, so you would think it would be in the interest of nonunion labor workers to support the union movement, but they are not.”
The study will explore the politics and demographics of those perceptions, especially looking at how family history affects those attitudes. It may be his final effort to help his past profession.
“I told myself I was going to become a lawyer, and I told everybody I was going to do it, so it came down to I better do it or I’m going to look pretty silly,” Jones said. “I knew the second I said that on the railroad, I had to do it or nobody would ever take me very seriously again.”
Jones is a wonder to watch as he works full time, goes to school full time, maintains a high grade point average, and builds his research project. Sleep is one of those sacrifices he makes.
“I have very understanding professors,” Jones said. “They are always pumping you up, and when you are down and questioning yourself, they will tell you to shut up and that you might be the greatest thing to walk the face of the earth. You might not believe them, but they keep you going.”
As with any student, they want Jones to succeed, especially seeing how hard he works.
But for Jones, there’s still anxiety that he gambled his son’s future on this experiment. He believes in himself, but also realizes he has much more to do. Until he’s produced something significant as a professional, Jones argues he hasn’t done anything yet. He still thinks he has to work harder and outperform his younger classmates. He must maintain his momentum and keep pushing because he doesn’t dare let up.
“I have to justify this,” he added.
Working in his favor is that he has the best motivation in the world waiting at home to see him walk through the door.