“You wouldn’t notice anything if you ran into him at a fast food place. You wouldn’t realize he has any kind of disability. But if you started a conversation, you’d realize Jacob can’t look you in the eye,” explains Jacob’s mom.

Jacob has Asperger’s, an autism spectrum disorder characterized by significant difficulties in social interaction and communication. For the first ten years of Jacob’s life, his family struggled to understand what was wrong. Jacob lashed out physically and barely spoke. After exhausting all possibilities, Jacob’s mother, Angela, took him to a hospital where he was diagnosed with Asperger’s.

She enrolled Jacob in special education classes where he improved, but when summer came, life became difficult. Without the structure of school, Jacob simply couldn’t function.

That’s when Angela contacted Lad Lake for support through mentoring services. Jacob formed a relationship with his Lad Lake mentor Bob, who provided support to Jacob and his family for the past six years.

Bob helped teach key life skills to Jacob – everything from personal hygiene to ordering off a restaurant menu. Angela was particularly excited that Jacob developed self-sufficiency skills such as walking to the grocery store to buy bread. She believes that type of skill boosted Jacob’s self-respect, self-understanding and confidence to interact with people. Last year, Jacob graduated from high school, and with Lad Lake and his mentor’s help, he secured a job. It is a dream Jacob’s mother wasn’t sure would be fulfilled.

“I’m so excited that he graduated from high school… knowing he walked across that stage is still unbelievable to me,” expresses Angela. “I’m so grateful for Lad Lake. He’s finally learning to step up and take control of things. It’s been a long road, but I’m so proud of him and what he’s become.”

Lad Lake is proud of him, too. And although the two spend less time together now, Bob believes that they’ll keep in touch because, “I’m his mentor, but also his friend.”