September 05, 2019LANCASTER — Last week, Erik Becker of Lancaster was awarded August's Granite Stater of the Month award by U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan, for his dedication to improving his community and for lending support to those in need.
Becker wears several hats about the community, including serving as the Student Assistance Program Coordinator at Groveton High School. He is also employed at the Tyler Blain House where he works with individuals to become self sufficient, breaking the cycle of homelessness. He co-founded the Black Crow Project, which supports those who are struggling with substance misuse and has been trained as a recovery coach.
Those who know Becker know that he's cut from a different cloth than most. He is a professional; however, he could easily pass for a member of your favorite rock band, clad with tattoos and a long beard. On the outside, his exterior is tough; however, his heart tells a different story, and this is why he is so relatable to so many people.
When asked about his work with teenagers, and how they need a 'cool' role model, now more than ever, Becker said, "Teenagers are bombarded by so many things today. So much to process or feel something about. They don't always have someone there for them. I love the saying 'be who you need, when you were younger" so I try to be just that."
He says that teenagers respond really well when you show up for them consistently, "Things can be so confusing today and I think having "a cool role model" gives them an opportunity to connect. I remember a conversation I was having with kids at a lunch table one time. They were asking me about my tattoos. One kid proudly said, 'my dad has so many tattoos'. The next kid says 'I want tattoos but I have this skin condition where everything scars'. The third kid said, 'my dad has tattoos too, but he really drinks a lot.' It's an ice breaker, and I think it makes them relate to me. I also think that it makes them feel like they won't be judged."
Becker says he has a concept of being a bigger monster than whatever the kids are facing "like, whatever it is they are afraid of, they know I'm in their corner, and they don't have to live afraid."
For so many years, tattoos have been associated with the under belly of society or for those who seek to live life on the edge, perhaps less professionally, however a shift has occurred and Becker is proof of that.
"I've been thankful to never have felt that the ink held me back. I think part of that is knowing that I have a responsibility to act in a way other than the way people would expect me to act covered in tattoos. I think if I carried myself negatively people would see the tattoos negatively," he explained.
"When we go to events and things like that It always makes me happy that my kids have a sense of pride that I'm their dude. Even recently with this recognition, to see former students taking it and running with it warms my heart," said Becker.
The award winner, says he gets mixed reactions when he tells others he works at a high school,
"I get that all the time, that sideways look with 'You.. you work at a high school?'" he said. "My heart led me here to the school and the shelter. I think being my own person helps people, especially youth feel like they can be who they are. Some of the best people I know have tons of tattoos. What makes them the best is the character inside. The tattoos are just an illustration of that. The tattoos are the stories."