MOUNT VERNON — Maximizing his own potential while helping others, 22-year-old James Knox, confined to a wheelchair due to spina bifida, decided to focus on his abilities and not his disabilities.
Knox attended special education classes in the Mount Vernon City School system as well as job training classes through the Knox County Career Center. Immediately after graduating from high school, he enrolled in and successfully completed the paraprofessional training course offered through the Knox County Educational Service Center.
KCESC consultant Connie Hatley said Knox did well in the course, which is an orientation to special education schooling. Topics include confidentiality, instructional strategies, behavior management and general information about special education. “He did great,” Hatley said. “He actively participated in the class and could offer some personal perspective to the things we were discussing.”
After the course, Knox completed the necessary paperwork, got fingerprinted for a BCII background check, paid the appropriate fees and obtained an educational aide permit from the Ohio Department of Education.
Now, with the approval of the relevant boards of education, he works as a substitute special education aide. The News caught up with him one day at Mount Vernon High School. He was busy supervising job training students as they completed their paper recycling routes throughout the building.
“It’s a nice job,” Knox said. “I like working and helping other people. I follow the [absent] teacher aide’s lesson plans and the agendas for the students. If they ask, I help them with academics, life skills or job training.”
Since Knox came up through the ranks, so to speak, he easily handles assignments that might be more time-consuming for someone less familiar with the high school. “We send James on missions we wouldn’t send other aides,” said Transition Mission instructor Nancy Gregg. “He knows the school. He knows the school rules. He knows the school’s expectations. He has a good knowledge of the building layout and knows the staff. He was a model student when he was here, and as a substitute he is an exemplary role model for other students.”
Kathy Kasler, MVHS principal, said, “James was a wonderful student and so far has been able to demonstrate that he can do the job.”
Asked what advice he would give to other individuals with handicaps, Knox said they should keep working to follow their dreams. “You can do stuff like this,” he said.
When not substituting in the school, Knox volunteers at Knox Community Hospital where he is a lab courier, transporting various specimens from the patient floors to the lab.