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2016 Photographer Index

2016-cotugno-dj 2016-evans-hammerheads

Jennifer Evans


Michael was diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder when he was 6. Michael is 19 years old and he is currently attending MiddlesexCounty College as a Liberal Arts major. He hopes to achieve an Associates Degree.

Michael is such an amazing young man and an inspiration to so many. When he was first diagnosed we were not given any hope that he would flourish the way he has. We never gave up on our son! We knew we had to advocate for him and more importantly educate ourselves regarding what he was entitled to. Michael is more than his diagnosis.

Autism is just a part of who he is! He is a son,grandson, brother, uncle, nephew, cousin, friend, animal lover and aSpecial Olympics National Gold Medal winner in swimming. He has always loved swimming and we were fortunate to begin our ownSpecial Olympics swim team called the Jersey Hammerheads which he is a part of. He wanted to continue swimming so he tried out for atypical swim team called Rutgers Scarlet and he made the team! He has been doing really well and all of the coaches at Scarlet are great with Michael!

As I stated before, Michael has a passion for animals. Last summer he was given a great opportunity to work at the Turtle BackZoo in West Orange, NJ. This is where Michael is most comfortable besides the water. He loved working at the petting zoo feeding and taking care of all the farm animals. He hopes to return this summer.

We were so grateful he had this opportunity to show people that despite having a disABILITY he can succeed and contribute to society.All of our children need to be given an opportunity to show what they can do!

Maria, mother of Michael
East Brunswick, NJ