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Hard work pays off

One Lakeland High School senior had a very special graduation last week.

Matthew Mahoney was one of five to graduate from the Project SEARCH program, a national employment training program for young people with developmental disabilities. The graduating seniors met in a classroom at Bon Secours Maryview Medical Center in Portsmouth and completed internships for hands-on work experiences.

Mahoney, who has autism, completed internships in the materials management, acute rehabilitation and environmental services departments.

He and the other students learned how to socialize with others in the work environment as well as job skills. Mahoney did well in the program, according to his supervisors.

“I really enjoyed having Matthew do his internship with us,” said Jesse Vallejos, Mahoney’s supervisor in materials management. “He had a great personality and did a great job.”

This excellent program is providing sorely needed training for young people with disabilities to help them transition to adulthood.

According to a 2015 report by the A.J. Drexel Autism Institute, two-thirds of young people with autism did not have a job or education plans during the first two years after high school. This continued into the early 20s for more than a third. And 20-sometimes with autism were less likely to be employed than their peers with other disabilities.

However, the Project SEARCH program seems committed to helping improve those statistics.

We congratulate Mahoney and his four fellow graduates from other Hampton Roads school districts. They put in many hours of hard work to succeed in this program, and they have prepared themselves well to succeed in life also.