A Special Student Gets Special Recognition at School Board Meeting

Senior Jalen Boyd receives a Certificate of Recognition from Union Schools Credits: Tapinto Union
Jalen Boyd with his parents, John and Lauren, and his Certificate of Recognition from Township of Union Schools Credits: Tapinto Union

UNION, NJ – High school senior Jalen Boyd has faced some challenges during his academic career.  But, he’s also had great successes and exceeded many of goals and expectations.

Boyd was honored Tuesday night with a Certificate of Recognition at Union’s Board of Education Meeting. 

According to Sarah McCulloh, Union High School Transition Coordinator, Boyd, 21, received special education and related services from Union schools and attended several out of district placements throughout his academic career. 

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This school year, Boyd applied for and was accepted into the 2017-18 Project Search High School Transition Program at Overlook Medical Center in Summit.  He participates in the employability classroom curriculum and at the conclusion of the school year, will have completed three internship rotations.

In March, Fox 5 produced a story featuring Boyd and other students of Project Search.

“They are showing me how to work in a work environment and become independent,” said Boyd. 

Project Search, a program that recruits small groups of students with special needs ages 18 to 21 from the local school systems, preps the students for the real world. The program brings the students into the hospital setting to participate in job training for an entire school year.  Classes last for a little over an hour, then the students are sent out across the hospital for various internships. 

At Overlook, Boyd started in the Dietary Department.  He performed so well he was asked by his supervisor to stay on for a second rotation. 

“Jalen has established a great natural support system,” said the supervisor.  “He maintains a professional demeanor while working and is very respectful of his peers, supervisors and throughout his interactions with patients.  He is a great team player.” 

Boyd is now working on his third rotation in the Overlook Foundation Department where he is developing clerical skills in an office setting.

McCulloh said Boyd’s hard work has paid off, and he was offered a part-time job in the Dietary Department at Overlook Medical Center.  “He completed the application and orientation process, and is now an official AtlanticHealth employee, working five days per week, four hours per day.” 

Last summer Boyd learned how to take public transportation to Overlook from his home.  “Not only can he independently ride the NJ Transit bus to work each day,” said McCulloh, “he has also earned his NJ driver’s license.”  In Boyd’s words, according to McCulloh, “I see it [getting his license] as a privilege, not a given.”

After graduation, Boyd will be promoted to full-time status and will receive health benefits with the possibility of continued promotion in the future.  “This is really exciting news as Jalen’s postsecondary goal of obtaining full-time employment is really happening,” said McCulloh.

Boyd attended the Deron School in Montclair, beginning when he was 13, where he learned to cook, do laundry, shop and manage his finances.  He was exposed to a variety of community living activities, such as shopping at supermarkets and retail stores, dining out in restaurants, and visiting the post office and library.  As he got older, Boyd participated in a work study program and was exposed to various vocational tasks, both in school and out in the community.

McCulloh said it was a true pleasure working with Boyd over the years.  “He always shows kindness and compassion to others, has a good sense of humor, is outgoing and personable, and shows great leadership skills.”  McCulloh said Boyd has an outstanding memory, loves sports, is friendly, thoughtful, sweet and polite. 

“It isn’t hard to see where he gets these traits,” said McCulloh.  Boyd’s parents, John and Lauren, “do everything possible to make sure that their son has the best opportunities to prepare him for the future.”

McCulloh said Boyd was co-valedictorian at his graduation from Deron last June and won both the Deron 2017 Citizenship Award and the Maureen A. Mayer Transition Award for demonstrating outstanding performance in the work place.

Boyd received the Rose DiPaola Memorial Award, given to students who play for the Union Varsity baseball team and have participated in baseball at every level while growing up.  He also received the Rebecca S. McDonald Award this year from Transition Coordinators Network.  Boyd was one of four students from across the state chosen to be recognized for his outstanding transition-related activities and was presented with his award at Middlesex County College last month.

Boyd won the Union County Association of Special Educators (UCASE) award and was presented with the award at a ceremony earlier this month at the Developmental Learning Center in New Providence.

Boyd represented the Union district this year as one of the keynote speakers at the Dare to Dream Student Leadership Conference at Middlesex County College.  He shared his story with over 200 students with special needs from all over the state.  “This is always a beautiful and powerful day,” said McCulloh, “for our students to see that they are not alone.  Jalen is truly an inspiration to us all.”



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