At last year’s Legacy Gala, Suzanne Fernandez shared her family’s journey through the special education system. That evening, her daughter Melissa turned 21. While it was a happy day, it was also a very scary one for Suzanne as her parent. Turning 21 meant that at the end of the school year, all the support services she’s ever known would end. As an adult and with school being over, there was one big question facing them …
Through the support of our Fund A Need at last year’s Legacy Gala, we raised $220,000 to support John Paul II Center’s expanded transition program. Today, we have a second job coach who works with our secondary students to gain work and life skills that they can use at home and out in the community. We’ve worked hard to expand our work sites to provide opportunities for all students regardless of their abilities. We’ve purchased online materials to supplement our job site training. And, we have success stories, like Corey’s.
Corey will graduate from JPII this spring and he’s ready to join the workforce. He recently began working at New Castle Lawn & Landscape one morning a week. CEO Brad Stephenson shares, “Corey is so awesome, and we all love him. He always asks what he can do. He’s a hard worker, and it really helps our guys out. It seems like Corey really enjoys it as well, even in these cold conditions! I thought you would like to hear what a great job the staff at JPII has done with him.”
“I like working at New Castle,” Corey admits. “They are very kind and I’m learning new skills like tree trimming. Thank you for letting me have the opportunity to work at New Castle.”
“Corey is just one of 26 students currently in transition,” explains Rene Berkhammer, Transition Coordinator. “Our ability to have staff who specialize in transition planning allows us to offer the same hope to all our students and their families. When our students graduate, we know that the skills that they receive during their school years at JPII will help them transition into the next chapter of their lives. Your gifts really made us rock stars in the transition field. We are grateful for your support that allows us to develop individual plans for each student so they can be the best that they can be based on their abilities.”
Suzanne summed it up well during her presentation at last year’s Legacy Gala: “The transition process is essential for setting students up for life beyond school. Without the appropriate funding and support, the individual may not be able to participate in community activities and possibly not even work. The process of finding and securing funding is overwhelming and it is all too easy to give up. That’s why having someone at JPII dedicated to helping guide and support parents through the process is essential. Twenty-one should be a beginning for these students and not an end.”