Preston Dwoskin was once part of the Marysville district’s special education transition program. Its students, ages 18 to 21, learn job skills and other life essentials. Six years later, he’s employed in the program to help other young adults.
“I’m beyond proud. I see my future working in the Marysville School District,” said Dwoskin, who’ll turn 27 Thursday.
The son of Marysville’s Phoebe and Robert Dwoskin, he was born with profound hearing loss. By 6 months old, he was part of a Listen and Talk program. It helped him learn speech. He was helped with occupational and physical therapy. Throughout school, he had an Individualized Education Program (IEP).
Today, he has a state-of-the-art hearing aid and excels at lip reading.
A member of Marysville Pilchuck High School’s class of 2010, he continued his education with the 18-21 program, earning his diploma in 2012.
Earlier this month, he started his part-time job. His job description says: “The district support personnel is responsible for providing assistance to students under the direct supervision of certificated staff in classrooms or other learning environments as assigned.”
Ginger Merkel, executive director of the district’s special education services, said Dwoskin will assist students, families and staff. He’ll help connect those in the program with job opportunities that match their interests and skills. Building relationships with area businesses will be part of his role.
In essence, he’ll be an inspiring example of what’s possible for special education alumni.
“He isn’t shy about explaining his hearing impairment to people, and isn’t shy about advocating for education in Olympia,” Merkel said. “He is a wonderful addition to our team, and is thrilled to return to his alma mater to work.”
Dwoskin said he became interested in the Legislature through his uncle, former Rep. Dave Quall, a longtime Mount Vernon teacher and Democrat who represented the 40th District. “I’ve been down to Olympia over 10 times,” said Dwoskin, who contacts lawmakers asking them to support education.
The 18-21 transition program is based in a Marysville house, but takes students into the community. On Monday, Dwoskin was with students at Marysville’s Big Lots store, where they had training in how to stock and organize shelves.
Work is nothing new to Dwoskin. For five summers, he has worked for the Everett AquaSox baseball organization. “I’ve been a gate greeter, ticket-taker and usher,” he said.
He’s a former ballplayer with Marysville Little League’s Challenger Division, which includes kids with physical and developmental challenges. He has coached baseball, and volunteers at Marysville Pilchuck football games.
In high school, he gave a speech to Marysville Pilchuck’s student body about the importance of remembering 9/11. He has a gift for public speaking, Merkel said, “and the gift of gab.”
With that moxie, Dwoskin met in June with Jason Thompson, the district’s interim superintendent, and said he asked, “Do you want to hire me?” The call about a job came three weeks later, Dwoskin said.
Jim Strickland, a teacher in the 18-21 program at Marysville Getchell High School, has known Dwoskin for years.
“To see him grow into a young man, and find his way in the world with the struggles that having a disability puts in your path, I have been amazed at the hidden skills he has,” Strickland said.
Dwoskin will work with Marysville Getchell’s transition students a couple of days each week, Strickland said.
“We are out there talking to these businesses in the community, inviting them to become inclusive employers for our students and graduates,” Strickland said. “We’re leading by example. It only makes sense that we as a district do that as well. It’s really exciting.”
Strickland noted that the city of Marysville has an Inclusive Workplace Partners Program. A local group, started in 2014 with the support of Mayor Jon Nehring, it works to create opportunities for people of all ages with disabilities.
“Our students have skills to improve the bottom line for businesses. Sometimes it’s just the climate of the workplace, to have a young person with a disability work there,” Strickland said. “Even if it takes a little extra work, I do believe it’s our responsibility as a community to create a workplace for every adult.”
Excited about his new job, Dwoskin is clear about his goal.
“I’m working for the kids,” he said.