One Phelps High School graduate is making her mark.
Madison Lawson, a 2018 graduate of Phelps High School, is a former student of Phelps High School’s exceptional student program, and she signed onto the office technology program of the Carl D. Perkins Vocational Training Center during a small ceremony at the school on Friday.
The center, which is located in Thelma, is a division of the Kentucky Office of Vocational Rehabilitation and allows Kentuckians with disabilities to obtain employment services. It provides comprehensive services to students who attend, including physical therapy, medical care and mental health services, among others, while providing the students with skills for future employment, at no cost to the students.
Brandy Smith, exceptional child instructor at Phelps High School, worked with Lawson at the school for seven years, since she was in the seventh grade. Lawson was crowned prom queen at the school during her senior year, and Smith said that Lawson is now the first Phelps High School graduate to be admitted into the center.
“I just get so emotional talking about Madison because I think of her as my own,” Smith said. “This is the first time that we’ve had a former student in our program be accepted into the center, and it’s a big deal for us here.”
Lawson was diagnosed with spina bifida, which is a condition that affects the development of the spine and can range from mild to severe. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, some people with spina bifida may have little to no disability, while others, like Lawson, are unable to walk. Each year, about 1,645 babies are born with the condition.
“They have to struggle with a lot of things that we don’t, like getting into their wheelchairs and just getting out of bed in the morning,” Smith said. “We take so many of those things for granted.”
Smith said that she has appreciated working with Lawson and watching her grow through the years.
“She’ll be able to work in the front office and greet people every day, which is the perfect job for Madison,” Smith said. “She’s just a beaming ray of sunshine. She is an excellent writer, and she has never let her disability get her down. She taught me more about life than I could have ever taught in the classroom.”
Through the program, Lawson will learn how to live more independently, while living on her own for the first time. Lawson will also learn skills to help her work in the front office at the center. Although this will be the first time that Lawson will live on her own, she will be medically supervised in case she needs assistance. She will move into the center on Sunday, with the help of her grandparents, Willy and Garlene Abshire, and she will start classes next week.
Lawson has lived with her grandparents for two years, and Garlene said that she has grown so much while staying with them.
“We know that she is going to go far in everything she does in life,” Garlene said. “We are so proud of her.”
Lawson said that she does not let her disability hinder her. She enjoys reading, writing and listening to country music. She also goes shopping and spends quality time with her grandma. She said that it makes her feel good to be an example for other people with special needs.
“I just want to encourage them to go on and get a job and never give up,” Lawson said.