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LHS exceptional education graduate honored with state award

LaGrange High School graduate Margaret Cercone was honored Thursday night for her work with Georgia Enterprises for Products and Services. Through the State Use Program, Georgian workers with mental or physical disabilities make meaningful and productive contributions to their communities.

Cercone is one of the six individuals to earn the 2019-2020 Working Wonders Award, thanks to a partnership of the TCSS 12+ Program, New Ventures and Georgia Vocational Rehabilitation Agency

“Our partnership with New Ventures started September 2019,” LHS exceptional education teacher Joseph DeGennaro said. “Within a year, I had five students placed in work positions that are being paid in the community. At New Ventures, the students are exposed to production work, janitorial work and secretarial work, but it’s a real-life environment.”

DeGennaro said he has watched Cercone grow tremendously through the program.

“She has learned to be more self-advocating about her needs and wants at work, and at school,” DeGennaro said. “She has a great work ethic, is determined, and I’m proud to

have them have Maggie work with me at school every day.”

Cercone has worked on the Georgia Enterprises for Products and Services project, including packaging of GOJO products, first aid kits and order fulfillment. She has worked on other tasks requiring packaging, assembly and inspection.

“We are truly getting more education I think with working with these students and being in contact with them every day than they were getting from us,” said New Ventures CEO Mike Wilson. “We’ve thoroughly enjoyed getting to know them and are so proud that Maggie was able to earn this award.”

Chip Aplin with New Ventures added that Cercone always comes to work ready no matter the kind of day she is having.

“She enjoys the sense of accomplishment and you can see the pride in her stature at the end of her shift,” Aplin said. “Her extreme soft spokenness, low self-esteem and timidness has disappeared in the work area and she presents herself as self-driven.”

In the past year, Cercone has worked at New Ventures working on hand sanitizer kits, first aid kits, matching carpet colors and works at the receptionist area.

Senator Randy Robertson was in attendance Thursday night to present Cercone with her award.

“Somebody I placed a lot of my supervision and leadership skills on was a man that Horace Mann, who was the father of public education. One of the quotes that Horace Mann said was, ‘be ashamed to die until you have won some victory for humanity,’” Robertson said. “I cannot begin to express my gratitude to Maggie for showing us all how to win those victories. Those of us who thought we had, realized by your example that we have a lot of work to do.”

In her award acceptance speech, Cercone said she likes to come to work and see her co-workers.

“I am grateful to work at New Ventures,” Cercone said.

“I feel good about working with new people and new staff members. I like to save money for things I like to buy. I want to be more independent in the future. I want to say thank you for everyone that nominated me for the Georgia Working Wonders Award. I am grateful that I was recognized for this award.”