White Dog and the White Dog Army gave Michael a hero's welcome when he came in the door after school today. We were all incredibly proud of him and could not wait to let him know.
Michael is in a Transition Program that aims to prepare him for and integrate him into life in the community. For those who do not know, Michael is my 21year old nephew (our first rescue, a few weeks before Quinn joined us) who is mentally challenged and has autism. In the three years he has lived with us, he has made amazing progress, thanks to the WDA, incredible teachers and a fantastic support program.
Part of the transition is that students serve three month "internships" in various business to prepare them for not just the work world but also to provide opportunities for social growth. Michael has worked at an art gallery and at the school systems technology department.
The staff at the technology department requested an extension of an extra three months, they were so impressed with Michael. There, two afternoons a week, Michael helps collect computers in need of repair from schools all over town, downloads updates to programs, and "wipes" old systems and programs. It is his dream; he loves computers. He has been very conscientious in his work demeanor, his professionalism, his dress, and his attitude toward the responsibilities...these are all huge steps for a young man who struggles to see the world outside of his own needs and wants.
Late this morning we got a call from his lead teacher. The White Dog Army and Steve listened to my part of the conversation and then eagerly wanted the details. It seems that Michael will be leaving the internship program I told them. Every one sighed thinking that something awful had happened. I began again, "The Tech Department wants Michael five days a week, every afternoon, and beyond the end of the school year."
There were tails starting to wag.
"It is still a non-paying situation, a mentorship, but their goal is to try and figure out how to fit him into their budget so that next school year they might be able to pay him." Quinn was on his feet, "That is my boy! A JOB! He is on the verge of earning a real job!"
"Whether they pay him or not think of the experience and opportunities for Michael." White Dog added. "He told me once that the people at his old school in the Midwest told him he was too disabled to ever be able to get a job. He showed them!"
I gathered my White Ones around me. "Michael deserves tons of credit, yes. And we will celebrate. But I want you all to know something special...he never would have opened up enough to become the success he is becoming without each of you. Before he joined the WDA he never really knew what it was like to be part of pack...to be loved for who you are...and to be expected to love back unconditionally as well. You all taught him to slow his anger...to be gentle...to understand that others, too, have disabilities. You share in this great victory."
We are all so proud. The journey is far from done and challenges await but tonight it is nice to see the smile on Michael's face and the confidence in his body language.