Belize - Belize News - - Great Belize Productions - Belize Breaking News
Home » Economy, Environment, People & Places » Celebrating Autism Awareness Month at Stella Maris
Apr 21, 2023

Celebrating Autism Awareness Month at Stella Maris

The month of April is recognized for Autism Awareness. This year’s theme: “Transforming the narrative: Contributions at home, at work, in the arts and in policymaking” reiterates the need to support a population that is fighting for a place in society to live purposefully and independently. In Belize, the learning institution that supports students with intellectual and physical disabilities is Stella Maris. The goal is to equip special needs students with enough skills to live a life of quality on their own. Sabreena Daly met two examples in this week’s look on the Bright Side.


Sabreena Daly, Reporting

Marlon Rodriguez is the monitoring officer at Stella Maris School for special needs children. In that capacity, he makes sure that all school activities are in order. He also observes the compound to ensure that students attend their respective classes when the bell rings. Rodriguez loves his job. In fact, for the better part of the past twenty years, Marlon has been passionate about his job. The same can be said for Darlene Polonio who has only been working at the school for the past twelve months as a warden. She also works the compound and assists with student activities. Marlon and Darlene share a special love for Stella Maris, as it is also their alma mater.

Dana Staine

Dana Staine, Vice Principal, Stella Maris School
“That is a great accomplishment for me because in life when you, what you put in, you will get out. Mr. Marlon have always been humble, kind, and a dedicated person. When he went on to ITVET, he did the carpenter training and I used to go over there to work with him in the literacy area. And then Darlene, she was here with us after she graduated. She was working at the Port Loyola preschool. And then, uh, here she’s back with us taking care of the students and she does an excellent job with our students, monitoring them, going to the dining room, to the bathroom, on the playground. She assists in any way possible.”

As colleagues, they were in the Graduating Class of 1995. They were found to have learning disabilities that required special cognitive needs. Marlon and Darlene are autistic.

Marlon Rodriguez

Marlon Rodriguez, Stella Maris graduate

“I used to be a student. Different teachers, they teach us life skills. Nothing hard to learn. I could learn very fast, they taught us to write our names, address. They also taught us how to fold clothes, how to dress properly, laundry. They taught us how to cook. They taught us how to move forward. I told them my dream was to work at Stella Maris school. My dream came true.  I’ve been here working for eighteen years, eight months now.”
Sabreena Daly

“Why do you love working here at Stella Maris?”
Marlon Rodriguez

“Stella Maris school is my comfortable place. Special needs can learn to dress properly and can learn to do things independently. When they graduate, they can find employment, they could find jobs.”


Polonio also shares a similar appreciation for the school she attended. Her pride in serving at Stella Maris extends to parenthood as, her son is presently enrolled here.


Sabreena Daly

“You graduated from Stella Maris primary school and now you work here. But you also have a child that goes here too. Can you talk to me about that?”


Darlene Polonio

Darlene Polonio, Stella Maris graduate

“I feel happy that my son is going to the school like me. I feel happy.”


Sabreena Daly

“Do you interact with him while here? What is it like with your son being here and you working here too.”


Darlene Polonio

“I feel happy because I can always look out for my son.”


There are five major spectrums of Autism that affect a person’s intellectual ability; these range from learning challenges to social and speech trials.  With a population of one hundred and twenty-five students, nine of them are diagnosed with this learning disorder. This month, they invite the public to celebrate the challenges and successes of persons living with this disability.

Dana Staine
“So for the month of April, we are highlighting students living with autism, and on Fridays we’ll be wearing blue to support the students living with autism. We are having a walk on the 28th of April. That is just to highlight, um, persons living with autism.”


Looking on the Bright Side, I’m Sabreena Daly.

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.

Advertise Here

Comments are closed