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Make An Impact During Giving Tuesday

Making Choices, For a Life in the Community

Jake Martine will tell you his ultimate goal in life is to live and dream big. And to Jake, that means having fun in life, having a job, a home of his own, getting married and having a family, growing big and strong, and being a role model. Its a tall order, but one Jake and his family are embracing.

We knew from a prenatal test that Jake would be born with Down syndrome, so we kind of got started right away, preparing and learning, recalls Jakes dad Andrew. As a baby, Jake received services from The Belle Center, which emphasized the value of inclusion, and being part of a family and community.

The Martines also connected early with a group of parents whove provided support and friendship through the years. As Jake grew, he was included in school and church activities, alongside friends, neighbors, and his sisters Avery and Sydney.

Transitioning to Adulthood

But when he graduated from high school, Jakes life started to look a little different than hed planned. Suddenly he was no longer a part of daily activities at school with his peers. Life-long friends moved away to college. Jake started a vocational experience, but he wasnt ready to work five days a week, and his big dreams seemed far from being realized.

In a lot of ways, this transition has been harder for us than when we first learned of Jakes genetic diagnosis, said Brandie, Jakes mom. Sometimes it felt like wed worked for 18 years to change peoples assumptions about Jake, and he was still ending up where he didnt want to be.A

The Martines turned to their community, especially St. Louis Arc, for support and resources. For Jake, there were Arc programs like NextED, Neighborhood Experiences, United Soccer and Basketball, and the chance to deejay at Arcs dances. He took a class about relationships and joined a Self-Advocate group. When the COVID-19 closures hit, St. Louis Arc created virtual opportunities, like the E-Sports gaming league, so Jake could stay connected.

His parents turned to St. Louis Arc to support their own advocacy for Jake, participating in workshops and parent training, and getting help as they navigated critical decisions on guardianship, benefits, estate planning and more.

Just as Belle Center had once taught the young parents how to care for their child, St. Louis Arc was there to help as they envisioned a new role in their adult sons life.

Jakes Next Steps

Recently that has meant helping Jake head off to college. Were excited if we can give Jake the similar experience as his siblings, with opportunity to continue his education, have time to mature, and a chance to find his path in life, said Brandie.

Now, at age 21, Jake lives on campus and takes classes at UMSL, through the Universitys SUCCEED program.

I get ready for class, get to class on time, eat lunch, Jake says, detailing a typical college students day. Hes also been making new friends, trying new things, and learning to take care of himself along the way.

Jake shows off his Vision Board he created as part of the futures planning that he and his family have done.

For his parents, Jake going to college is another step along his path to independence. Says Brandie, Our familys goal has always been for Jake to have a life that is his choice, in the community. Weve really tried to plan with that end in mind.

When Jake visited his home on a recent weekend, he brought up his calendar on his phone and started telling his mom all the things he had coming up. It stood out to me, because it wasnt me telling him what he has to do, explained Brandie. Hes in charge now, not me.

Were learning what Jake is capable of when given the opportunity, she said. Hes learning, hes figuring it out, and hes being accountable.

His dad agrees. Jakes always surprising us, and I think we feel more confident now that hell find the support he needs, said Andrew. Hes exceeding our expectations–exceeding my expectations. Im very proud of him.

With your support for St. Louis Arc, young adults like Jake can find the services and resources they need to succeed and plan for their future.

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