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Destination Dawgs equips students with disabilities with career skills

Destination Dawgs with Hairy Dawg

The first cohort of Destination Dawgs “call the Dawgs” in 2017. [Submitted photo]

There are more than 2,000 seats in the Classic Center Theatre. On this day, every seat is taken, with more than 400 black-robed graduates on the stage and four times that many smiling family members in the theater and balcony. Justin Mejias sits on the front row under the bright lights. He takes a deep breath and approaches the podium.

He introduces himself, then shares a personal story: “I wanted to come to UGA because I wanted to challenge myself and improve my career goals. I saw it as an opportunity to step out of my comfort zone and to be more confident in myself.”

He talks about the things he accomplished during his time at UGA: earning his driver’s license, leading music therapy sessions, mentoring other students.

“I’ve learned that anyone can achieve their dreams if they are willing to work hard and find the help and support they need to overcome the obstacles in their path,” he said.

Among the hundreds of parents and family members in the audience that day in 2019 is Martha Mejias, Justin’s mom, the only person there more nervous than him. Obstacles. Martha knows them intimately.

She remembers the autism diagnosis when Justin was 3 and how the doctor was so cruel in delivering the news.

Destination Dawgs

Oconee resident Lisa Ulmer working with a Destination Dawgs student,
Emily White, last year. [Photo by Dorothy Kozlowski/UGA]

For the complete story, see the December 28th, 2023 edition of The Oconee Enterprise. Subscribe today!

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