Success Story: LISA

Lisa-success story

“Everybody wants to be me!”

But after transferring from a public school to Merakey School in Greensburg for children with special needs, she went on to earn her high school degree and is now attending The Merakey Transition Center, where Lisa has completely turned her outlook on life around. “I love myself and I wouldn’t change anything,” Lisa now says. “I’m just taking one step at a time and staying strong and brave. I don’t give up on anything. I keep going forward, and never look back.” That courage is what most impressed her transition teacher, Erika Muraca, who nominated Lisa for the Student Resiliency Award in May 2015. “When I won that award,” said Lisa, “everyone was so proud of me, so happy that I am doing so well. I worked hard for it and feel like I really earned it.”

The only girl in a classroom of five, Lisa is holding her own in her second year at the Transition Center. She attends the program five days a week and can remain there until age 21 when she graduates, or leave whenever she feels ready to go into competitive employment or possibly college. Lisa loves learning but prefers “hands-on” activities that keep her moving and problem-solving.

Located in Greensburg, PA - Westmoreland County, the Merakey Transition Center supports students with emotional support needs by providing them with the skills and confidence they need to prepare for volunteering, employment, and educational opportunities.

As part of her skills training, Lisa enjoys working with children and volunteers one morning a week in the Merakey Stepping Stones program for children with autism. “I teach the kids how to talk to other kids and share. I show them that you don’t need to be scared to be yourself; it’s the Mother Nature I have in me!” She also works at the local YMCA doing janitorial work and in the Transition Center’s simulated work program at the Cosmo Café where she sells snack items and runs the cash register. Her work as a waitress at a local restaurant has piqued her interest in possibly attending a cooking school and exploring job opportunities in the restaurant field.

“Lisa has demonstrated courage in a variety of ways,” said her admiring teacher. “But the one that stands out is her attitude towards life.” Perhaps that is why this very “strong girl” can say with obvious pride, “Everybody wants to be me! They see how well I’ve done at Merakey, how I’ve changed so much in my life. I’m working hard to change my life for the better. I’m ready to start my adult life with confidence.”