SAYREVILLE – Pathways to Adult Living Program (PAL) student Caterina Perez won the Rebecca S. McDonald award from the New Jersey Transition Coordinators Network.
The New Jersey Transition Coordinators Network, which consists of a group of professional coordinators in conjunction with the Department of Education help to provide long-range planning along with Community-Based Instruction (CBI) to assist students with disabilities successfully transition from a school setting into the adult world, according to information provided by The Educational Services Commission of New Jersey (ESCNJ).
The Rebecca McDonald award is given to a student who has been successful in activities, overcoming obstacles, motivation and achievement in any area of transition from school to adult life. The various aspects can include independent living, self-advocacy, postsecondary planning, paid or unpaid employment, and/or participation in the Individualized Education Program.
“We are so proud of Caterina for winning this prestigious award,” said Mark Finkelstein, superintendent of ESCNJ, in the statement. “The PAL program is a fairly new program for students who have completed their high school academic requirements and need assistance in transitioning to independent living.
“We are thrilled to have one of our students win this award, and a big thank you goes to Monica Ahearn, director of Special Services from the Roselle Public Schools, for her recommendation to the PAL program.”
Perez completed her academic requirements at Roselle High School and is currently a student at the PAL program in Sayreville. Her participation in the intensive community-based instruction program has given her the skills needed to become an independent young woman, according to the statement.
Perez’s mother passed away several years ago, and having no living blood relatives, she began living with a step relative, according to the statement.
“Caterina has developed into a fine young woman despite the hardships she has encountered in her personal family life,” Raissa Prus, supervisor of CBI, said in the statement. “Caterina is a star pupil she schedules her own doctor appointments and arranges her own bus transportation through NJ Transit and is eager to go to work.”
Perez works independently and on Mondays and Fridays she gets paid to work at the Molly Pitcher Travel Plaza. She also independently works at ShopRite, Wawa and Marshalls.
She makes the all-natural dog biscuits and sews the cat toys for sale to ESCNJ employees and Scarlett Paws, an animal welfare network.
“Caterina is also an asset to the PAL entrepreneurial business program,” Marci Rubin, PAL teacher, said in the statement.
This month, Perez will graduate from the PAL program, and will continue working at her various jobs. Her ultimate goal is to secure a living arrangement in a supervised apartment setting, according to the statement.