BAY COUNTY, Fla. (WMBB) — A Bay District Schools program is giving adults with special needs a chance to work.
They’re partnering with Chautauqua Charter school.
Michael Balsters, otherwise known as ‘Mikey’ brings joy to the West Bay Elementary School every day.
Students and teachers often hear him singing while doing his favorite tasks.
“Blow off, clean up, vacuum and pick up trash,” Balsters said. “I cut all the lamentations and white tables, clean up the cafeteria with a push broom and sweep the floors and wipe tables.”
And he’s moving up.
Mikey was just promoted to Assistant Vice Head Custodian.
“He walks around and sings a lot. He always says different things that make me laugh,” West Bay Elementary Head Custodian Thomas Aycock Jr. said. “I swear he makes me laugh probably a hundred times a day, so that’s like 500 times a week, you know, he’s just overall a joyful person and the kids love him. Just watching Mikey, though, learn to work. He’s so good at it and it just he just like gets better all the time. So I don’t know, it’s just inspiring to me.”
Mikey is one of the first Chautauqua graduates to become a full-time employee with the school district, and he won’t be the last.
More than 50 other Chautauqua students are learning custodial skills and how to be a kindergarten aid.
“Michael has really grown emotionally, he’s also become more confident he isn’t afraid to engage in conversations before he would just kind of mumble so that people wouldn’t really try to talk to him. And it’s good for him because a lot of the tasks are repetitive and often people with autism do well with repetitive tasks. And he’s also he’s really done very well with that,” Mikey’s Mom Jane Schmidt and West Bay Elementary Media Specialist said.
And he does it all while putting a smile on everyone’s face.
Parents can reach out to Chautauqua to see if their children are eligible for the program or they can contact BDS Communications at 850-767-5282.