MIAMI (CBSMiami) – There is a school in Miami that isn’t just giving special needs students an education, it is also helping them get jobs.
Stuart Martinez is a student at EasterSeals South Florida, a school designed to help students with autism and other special needs.
The school’s kitchen is his home away from home as he prepares boxed lunches for military applicants.
“In my career. I’m a MAP worker. I make sandwiches for the military,” says Martinez.
It is a job he has trained for since high school, as part of the Culinary Arts Program at EasterSeals South Florida.
“He was one of our best students. He was always helping in the kitchen. He was always looking up to his teacher,” explains Camila Rocha, Educations Services Director at EasterSeals South Florida.
That teacher is Jaqueline Simeon, or Miss Jackie, as her students know her.
“Miss Jackie was my very first teacher. She’s wonderful, wise and gentle. And also she’s been with me the last 8 years,” recalls Martinez.
“Stuart, he has a lot of potential. I know that with support he will be able to do anything that he wants in his life,” says Miss Jackie.
Miss Jackie has been a special education teacher for 30 years. To Stuart, she is a mentor, and now a colleague.
“I take my job very seriously,” says Stuart.
Upon graduating from EasterSeals and then volunteering for a few years, Stuart is now a paid employee working in the kitchen, but he still turns to Miss Jackie for guidance and advice.
“She helped me doing some of the cooking abilities including doing the dishes. Sweeping the floor. Hygiene. Everything. She’s like a second mother to me,” says Stuart.
That is a title Stuart’s actual mother, Enriqueta, does not mind sharing with Miss Jackie.
“She’s my hero. She’s been his hero. She’s been such an inspiration to me, knowing she does not do it just for Stuart, but every student that comes here and is blessed to have her as a teacher,” says Stuart’s mother Enriqueta.
“I love to help people. I know that students with disabilities need people who love the, who care about them and trust in them,” says Miss Jackie. “They have the capacity to achieve anything they want if we help them and support them.”
Stuart took Miss Jackie’s mentoring to heart, becoming a mentor of sorts himself. He now leads his team in the kitchen and inspires young students to reach their full potential.
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