The Key is Respect

Colton Hines’ Transition From School to a Paycheck

Colton Hines at his job in BelmarLast spring, Colton Hines graduated from Hawkswood School with a job. Now, on any given day in the Borough of Belmar, you might find the 19-year-old in his bright yellow vest sweeping the boardwalk, setting up chairs for events, or at the lake picking up trash left behind by tourists. As an employee for the Boro of Belmar, Colton goes to work every day and earns a paycheck.

“He literally jumps out of bed, ready to go to work,” said his mother Jeannie.

Life was not always so promising. At 6’1″, Colton is a physical presence. He is talkative, but struggles with self-regulation, needs structure and guidance, and has a history of challenging behavior. He attended another private school, where he was not working up to his potential.

“I always knew he could do more – but he was not getting the opportunities he needed. I had to do something,” said Jeannie. That is when she and her district turned to Hawkswood School, where he “began to soar the moment he walked through the door.”

Right away, Colton started working in the kitchen at Hawkswood School, where he learned work skills. As his responsibilities grew, he gained more confidence. According to Jeannie, the key to Colton’s dramatic transformation was mutual respect. “Hawkswood honored who he is and treated him like an adult,” she said. “He felt worthy and valued.”

Hawkswood School staff provided intensive supports when he started his job in the community to be sure that he understood his responsibilities, was safe at all times, and was getting the supports he needed. Now, he is able to work with minimal supervision.

“I just know that if he did not go there, he would not have been ‘job ready’. He would have been in school until he was 21 and still would not have been ready.”

Recently, the mayor of Belmar told Colton’s parents that he is well liked by everyone, polite, and a valued member of the staff. Colton’s parents are especially proud that he does not need DDD or other state services. “We were scared to let him graduate before age 21, and to take him out of the state system, but he seems able to do this on his own. This is not a ‘program’ – Colton has been hired to do a job, and he gets that job done,” said Jeannie.

“And all of this, is because of Hawkswood,” she concluded.

 

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