Working Wildcats sign with post-secondary programs

By EMILY SPARACINO / Staff Writer 

COLUMBIANA – In the busy weeks leading up to graduation, Shelby County High School took time to recognize three students who have been accepted into different post-secondary transition programs in Alabama.

Leah Tess Parker, Caleb Hall and Michael Smith, who were members of the Working Wildcats program at SCHS, were surrounded by family, classmates and other supporters in the school’s media center May 8 as they signed with On to JSU at Jacksonville State University, Falcon Flight at the University of Montevallo and Project SEARCH in Shelby County, respectively.

“I love them, and it’s really hard to let go of good kids who are willing to work,” SCHS special education teacher Marisol Lilly said. “We are so, so proud of them. I’m not surprised they were all accepted into a program.”

Each student spoke briefly to those gathered, and received a standing ovation.

“I want to thank Ms. Lilly for pushing me to do this,” Hall said. “I want to thank my mom for her knowing I can do this. I also want to thank her for being there for me, always. Mom, I couldn’t have done this without you. Thanks to the coaches for letting me help with the football team.”

“I want to thank my dad for pushing me, Ms. Lilly for all the hard work you’ve done for me and my friends for supporting me,” Parker said, adding she was thankful for the chance to be the cheerleading manager.

Smith thanked his mom, Lilly and his friends for their support.

“I want to thank all you guys for being my friends, for being here for me and making me feel like I belong,” he said.

Parker, Hall and Smith will start their programs in the fall.

Lilly said when she started working at SCHS seven years ago, few post-secondary program options existed for her students after high school.

“The programs that were available at the time were not in our location and sponsored by our county,” she said. “Today, with the help and partnership of the (Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services), several programs exist. For years my students will arrive to school the first day of their freshman year with goals of going to college just like their peers. Today that opportunity is possible.”

Lilly thanked school staff and students’ families for playing roles in the students’ success.

“I always tell them, ‘God’s plan is always bigger, and you deserve to be in all of those programs,’” she said. “They will be productive members of our society. It’s a great day to be a Working Wildcat.”