If you are anything like Tony Schweinhagen, you probably enjoy reading, working with your hands, and playing sports. Recently, Tony added cooking, budgeting, and time management skills to his list of mastered activities thanks to his participation in The Ability Center’s Next Steps Summer Program. After connecting with staff at an outreach event, Tony and his mother soon discovered our programming could provide the skills he needed most. Tony enrolled in the Next Steps Summer Program to gain social skills, enhance his cooking, meal planning, budgeting abilities, and strengthen his employability skills.
Tony shares, “The start of my life was not ideal, living through nine years of foster care before being adopted at age 12, could have had a negative impact on my life. I put the past behind me and with my parents support I feel that I have become a well-presented young man.” Tony credits his mom for instilling strong values in him. When asked who his biggest role model is and why, Tony explains, “My mom is my role model because she is always looking at the positive side of things.”
Before the summer program even started, Tony was being noticed for his accomplishments. The Ability Center’s Auxiliary quickly became impressed by Tony’s work ethic and never quit attitude and presented Tony with a scholarship in the spring of 2018 to support him while at Westminster College. Not only will Tony live independently on campus, he will compete as a diver for his college team.
Tony reveals what he looked forward to most about the program, “I hoped to learn self-reliability.” He aims to inspire others through his love for education, majoring in Childhood Education in college. Supporting youth to become their best selves is Tony’s true passion.
Tony explains, “School has not always come easy to me and at times I do need reminded or prompted to get my school work done. When I was first diagnosed with Autism, I was kind of scared because I did not know what it meant. Sometimes it takes me a while to process what someone asks me to do and I may need instructions re-explained to me. After a while, I finally understood that my diagnosis of Autism tells people that I need help in some areas. I plan on using my gifts and talents to give back to the community through teaching. I love being helpful to others and helping them get things done. It makes me happy just seeing the face of someone after I help them get something done. I plan on encouraging, teaching, and coaching younger kids around me.”