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New Jersey Transition Coordinators Network Awards Marcus Wilson with the Rebecca S. McDonald Award

Program Prepares Students with Disabilities for Successful Transition into Adulthood


SAYREVILLE, NJ – June 3, 2021 – Pathways to Adult Living Program (PAL) student Marcus Wilson, a resident of Sayreville, has won the Rebecca S. McDonald Award from the New Jersey Transition Coordinators Network.


Working in conjunction with the state Department of Education, the professional coordinators from the network provide long-range planning along with community-based instruction (CBI) to help students with disabilities successfully transition from a school setting into the adult world.


The Rebecca S. McDonald Award is given to a student who has embraced activities, motivation and achievement – while overcoming obstacles – in any area of transition from school to adult life.  That includes independent living, self-advocacy, postsecondary planning, paid or unpaid employment, and/or participation in the Individualized Education Program (IEP).


“We are so proud of Marcus for winning this prestigious award,” said Mark Finkelstein, superintendent of the Educational Services Commission of New Jersey (ESCNJ). “The PAL program is for students who have completed their high school academic requirements and need assistance in transitioning to independent living. We provide that critical bridge.”


“We are thrilled to have one of our students win this award, and a big thank you goes to Dawnrae Lawrence-Force, Sayreville Case Manager, for her recommendation of Marcus to the PAL program,” the superintendent added.


Wilson has been a student in the PAL program in Sayreville since September 2018. His participation in the intensive CBI program has given him the skills needed to become an independent young man. The specialized program includes job shadowing with community employers, recognizing appropriate behavior in different settings ranging from a restaurant to a movie theater, participating in community activities, and learning safe practices for using mass transit.


“Marcus has developed into a fine young man and his work behaviors are exceptional,” said Raissa Prus, CBI Supervisor at PAL. “A star pupil, Marcus is able to work independently without a job coach; that is one of the greatest accomplishments we strive for at PAL.”


In November 2020, Wilson applied online for a position with Lowes Home Improvement in East Brunswick.  He interviewed and trained for the position and was hired.  He is also employed by “Popcorn for the People,” selling popcorn at Rutgers sporting events and other locations, and works independently at the HMS Host travel plaza in the maintenance department.


“Marcus is also an asset to the PAL travel training instruction coordinated by NJ TIPS,” added Marci Rubin, a PAL teacher.  “He mastered riding the NJ Transit 815 bus to his job at Lowes, and enjoys taking mass transit for leisure activities on the weekends.” 


Those activities include trips to eat at his favorite restaurant, Olive Garden, or to explore downtown happenings in New Brunswick.


Over the past several years, Wilson worked hard to develop his skills and, as part of his financial literacy instruction, has learned to plan a budget for achieving his independent life, Rubin said.


In June, Wilson will be graduating from the PAL Program, and his dream is to move to Georgia, find a job and get his own apartment.  His parents are enthusiastically supporting him in achieving his goal.


“Marcus has the skills to live independently and contribute to his community. Once the pandemic is over and life resumes to normal, he will pursue those dreams,” Prus said. “We wish him well!”