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Jul 7, 2016

What Now? Life after Stella Maris School (Pt II)

Last week, we introduced you to three teens who were a part of the 2016 graduating class of Stella Maris School. It is a big year for the school as all, but one of the graduates was moving on to another school or skills program. Our three featured graduates all had different plans following graduation.  Cameron Pratt is transitioning to the Ranger Program at the house of Shotokan, Melody Reneau is transitioning to Nazarene High School and Ahmad Banks was transitioning home to be cared for by a babysitter. Three very different teens and three very different start to their futures. This week, we catch up with three past graduates of the school and find out where they are now.  Here is part two of this special feature in tonight’s Healthy Living.

 

Joy Westby, Outgoing Principal, Stella Maris School

“All I want is for them to become functioning members of our society; if it is even in parenthood, they need to be accepted and given equal opportunities like everybody else.”

 

Marleni Cuellar, Reporting

The mission of Stella Maris School is to provide the opportunity for children with special needs to acquire the skills they need to achieve their highest potential. But after the children leave the institution, what are their realities? This is a question that the parents struggle to answer; especially so for Lynn Kelly who has two boys who graduated from Stella Maris

 

Lyn Kelly, Mother of Selvyn & Robert Kelly

“Sending my two boys to Stella Maris School; it was hard, but at times it became easier knowing what their disability was, especially for Selvyn.  And knowing that he is dyslexic and things like that, he has grown a long way. Selvyn graduated two years ago from Stella Maris School and graduating two years from Stella Maris School, he had been going on to Skills Training School which he completed and now I am trying to  figure out now what we can do with him.”

 

Selvyn Kelly, Stella Maris Alumni

“I am good at my drawing. I do Math, English reading…I do lot of things.”

 

Selvyn Kelly

Marleni Cuellar

“What’s your favorite subject?”

 

Selvyn Kelly

“Reading.”

 

Her younger son, fifteen year old Robert, is visually impaired. He graduated from the school year.

 

Robert Kelly, Stella Maris Graduate

“I feel happy cause I feel proud of myself that I try. The teachers teach me about Math; how to know the money and they teach you about function and reading. And they teach yo about the poem weh my next teacher bring and we actually know the poem.”

 

Robert Kelly

Marleni Cuellar

“So you like poetry?”

 

Robert Kelly

“Yes ma’am. I mi say, I mi wah be wah fireman.”

 

Marleni Cuellar

“Weh you want be when you grow up?”

 

Selvyn Kelly

“I want to work.”

 

Marleni Cuellar

“Ih matter where you work?”

 

Selvyn Kelly

“I mi want work da WASA.”

 

Lyn Kelly

“Like for Selvyn, I ask him, “What do you want to do? Do you want to go back to school or things like that?” And sometimes he say, ma I don’t know weh I want to do. So I look pan ahn and tell ahn well you need to figure out what you want to do so we can help you in directing what you want to do or get you that help. And for Robert, Robert is always saying, ma I wah go be a fireman. I say Robert, I wah pray for you and hope u could have a job as a fireman.”

 

Seventeen year old Laurence Diego has cerebral palsy. He also graduated from Stella Maris two years ago.

 

Joy Westby

“Laurence is one of the students who when he came back and asked for a job and wanted a letter to go and work, it broke my heart because he was crying and saying that he wanted a work; he graduated and he wanted to work. Not all children get placement and there’s this one child…there are several of our students who come back and ask if we don’t have a job and it hurts us when we have to say no.”

 

Sarita Diego

For Laurence’s mother, Sarita Diego, this is a frustrating reality; especially since her son fully understands why he wants to work.

 

Sarita Diego, Mother of Laurence Diego

“From since he graduated from Stella Maris, he hasn’t been doing nothing in the fact of having a job or so. He come and show me the sign that he wants to make money. So I say what you want to do Laurence? He show me. Let Laurence explains to you. How you tell mommy that you want to work?”

 

Marleni Cuellar

“That’s money?”

 

Joy Westby

Sarita Diego

“He shows that he wants to make money. And what do you want to be? He wanted to be in the army.”

 

Joy Westby

“Laurence is more aware of things happening in the environment, in his surroundings, that some of the students who are employed right now.”

 

Laurence Diego

Sarita Diego

“He cries a lot when he hears about work because that’s what he wants to do. If we tell him Laurence go clean the yard, he will go around the yard cleaning it very quickly with his bag. We laugh sometimes because he is staggering, but he’s getting the work that we told him done. We tell him Laurence go wash your own clothes—because I try to teach him. He’s going to pick up his clothes, he gonna on the machine, he’s gonna put the soap powder in and everything. He does what he sees you do. Laurence understands when you are laughing at him. He understands and he will just turn his face and sometimes he shows me that they are laughing at him. But these are children that their parents didn’t educate them about children with disabilities. Or sometimes maybe we can say that these are children, how you would say, they just think small of other people. So I just want them to know that give the children with disability, the teenagers, everybody with disability, give them a chance out there to let them prove themselves. Let them make their own money like all of us are doing.”

 

We did find one past graduate still employed at his original job training site.  Twenty-nine year old Kirk Munnings has been working with Brodies Superstore for the past ten years.

 

Marleni Cuellar

“What dah your favorite thing about having a job?”

 

Kirk Munnings, Stella Maris Alumni

“A job…it keeps you busy. You no boring and you could help yourself. They like a person who work hard, no one weh move slow. A person weh move slow have to help yourself.”

 

Roger Reyes

Roger Reyes, Supermarket Manager, Brodies Superstore

“He started his internship ten years ago and it is amazing how ten years just fly pass. But we hired him, but we had hired previous people who are special needs. And we find out that with a little bit of compassion, a bit of understand, a bit of patience, they work so well for you. Because what we try to do is have a fit for them, but give them duties, tasks that fit their capacities. Kirk—very joyful, hard work, honest, reliable. But we had to learn to work with him and he has learned to work with us and that is the partnership we have with him.”

 

Joy Westby
“Whenever I go there, there is not one day that a personnel or supervisor would tell him you can’t be speaking to that person like that because they don’t know who I am. And so I think that they give him that little freedom to be himself and when he is working he is working and he would just say hi or bye. But he is a sincere; he is a modest person.”

 

Kirk Munnings

Roger Reyes

“After ten years, he’s the face of Brodies. Customers come and seek out Kirk. Where is Kirk? Is Kirk still here? When they don’t see him for two weeks, he’s on holiday; does Kirk still work?  So he has become a part of our family. And you know the good thing about this is that our directors allow us to hire special needs people like Kirk and for that I think we are blessed for that.”

 

Kirk is not the only past graduate that has been gainfully employed but he is certainly one of a few.  It is a frustrating reality for parents and advocates who know that the Stella Maris graduates are talented children who simply need an opportunity.

 

Lyn Kelly

“Most of the time, some of the institutions or the workplace do not want to open their doors to children with disabilities. So it is kinda hard for being the parent with children with disability for them to see that there is a future out there for them and they cannot achieve it. So we also plead to the community to open their doors to children with disabilities.”

 

Sarita Diego

“Nobody thinks about the children, after they graduate from Stella Maris because if they had given even one slight thought about them, they’d make sure that they provide for them. Even the ministers they don’t worry about the children or the school, because you go to the school and you know that the school needs basic things. But when they graduated now, all of that is over. Where do the children have to go? Either walking the street, begging money or stay home. All I want to see for my son is that he being happy. He just wants to be what he wants to be.”

 

Joy Westby
“We know that simply things that organizations can open their doors, if it is even to dust, and sometimes we would ask our students what they would want to be. Some of them would say a doctor; others would laugh. But if you would just give them a chance if it is even to go and organize files in a doctor’s office, you know…or. Come on just give them a chance.”

Read Pt 1 here.

 

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Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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