MIAMI (CBS4) – Bryce Lucas loves a challenge, and one of the biggest he’s taken so far is adulthood.

“Growing up I felt like a stranger in a strange environment, but then I pursued this college thing and getting involved with other groups because I wanted to feel accepted as a person and not just someone with autism,” explained  Bryce.

Just like any young adult his age, Bryce wanted to go to college and start a career, and he worried his autism diagnosis would limit his options.

“For a lot of these kids, it’s a big jump, it’s too big of a jump to just take without a bridge,” Bryce’s father Richard Lucas shared.

For years, the Lucas family received services and support from the Dan Marino Foundation, an organization dedicated to creating awareness and opportunities for those living with autism. One of their latest projects is geared toward helping people in Bryce’s shoes.

“We found early on that these young people, they could master the skill, that wasn’t a problem but it was all of the social or soft skills that were a challenge and so up came the idea of having a college,” said Mary Partin, Executive Director for the Dan Marino Foundation.

A college – that would be the first of its kind, with special amenities like a sensory-sensitive environment and vocational curriculum to prepare students with autism for employment in the real world.

“Their program is designed to smooth the edges out in order for our kids to do the next step,” said Richard.

And the Foundation’s already experienced success with a summer program that pairs students with employees.

“We were able to triple and quadruple the amount of young people that were able to actually gain employment and keep employment,” said Mary.

And next year, when construction is complete, Bryce feels the college’s doors aren’t the only ones that will be opening.

“It’s a cut throat world for people like ourselves and yet with the idea of this vocational school not only can it train us, but to embrace the fact that they have a unique form of talent, all you need to do is open that door and they’ll show it to you,” explained Bryce.

For more information on the Dan Marino Foundation, center and vocational college, give Neighbors 4 Neighbors a call 305-597-4404 or visit .


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