HomeShamong NewsFormer student, family thankful for Seneca's support

Former student, family thankful for Seneca’s support

Seven years of education and personal assistance leads to success for a former student.

Jason Maggipinto’s school visit in 2019 with his former teacher Sandy Langan (Frank Maggipinto/Special to The Sun).

A family’s appreciation for the support and education one its members received at Seneca High School goes deeper than the dollar.

The Maggipinto family has donated a total of $10,000 to Seneca High School’s special education department in each of the past two years, a gift approved at the Jan. 8 Lenape Regional board of education meeting. Seneca Principal Jeff Spector said the school is grateful and humbled by the family’s generosity because it spotlights educators’ efforts.

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Our staff will continue to provide educational experiences for our students that prepare them for life after Seneca,” Spector continued. “The donation by the Maggipinto family will help us in that mission.”

Frank Maggipinto said the donation is in appreciation of the attention and support his autistic son, Jason, received during his seven years in the school — four as a student and an additional three in a post-graduate program.

Jason enrolled at Seneca in 2011 and was in need of more in-class support as he progressed in his high school career. For Frank — who recalls a less inclusive school climate for special education in the 1960s and ’70s — the opportunities and education Jason received were impressive.

Not being there every day, you can only be so involved in the process,” Frank explained. “What we’ve been able to gather is that even at lunch, they made sure he could eat lunch with students; he made some really great friends. He was in bigger classes like art, music and physical education, where he’d mingle with other students.

Jason excitedly chimed in as his father spoke, reeling off the names of students he met through the adaptive programs at Seneca, including football players.

Football quickly became one of Jason’s favorite sports at Seneca as he was befriended by  players during school hours. Several years past his departure, Jason continues to send handwritten notes to the friends he made on the team.

That blew my mind, because in my day, you’d never see that with football players who are tough guys and they’re friends with my son,” Frank recalled.

When prom time rolled around, Jason was approached by a variety of students who wanted him to be their date. He accepted the invitation from Maddie Marshall, whom he keeps in contact with via his letters and cards.

Frank said the employees at Seneca went out of their way to provide not only Jason with the necessary help, but other students who live with special needs.

Educators such as Sandy Langan helped — and continue to help — students within the department to ensure they excel in high school, and that, through a post-graduate program, they learn skills for life outside of school.

The voluntary program is open to all students with special needs after graduation, up to 21 years of age, per a state requirement. Students are welcomed back for one, two or a full three years to learn those life lessons.

Among the skills learned are how to balance a checkbook and make purchases at Walmart, ShopRite and malls. Participants take per diem jobs with partners such as Virtua Hospital, Shamong Wawa and Medport Diner, among others, to build strong resumes.

Seneca provides transportation for the students to and from the participating businesses, and provides them with chances to participate in after-school activities such as athletics.

“Students with similar conditions would extremely benefit from it because there’s so much a student can pick up, and we didn’t learn about it until Jason’s graduation in 2015,” Frank remarked. “You should know as much as you can, so you know the options available.”

Jason is now in Florida, where he has worked at a St. Augustine hospital, as well as at Publix supermarkets in Hammock Beach and Palm Coast.

Langan noted Jason’s belief that he’s “living the dream,” a result, the teacher believes, of his willingness to try new things, his positive outlook and outgoing personality and a great deal of support from friends and family.

Jason doesn’t have ‘can’t’ in his vocabulary,” Langan said. “Jason has touched the hearts of many at Seneca with his amazing personality and eagerness to make the most out of life.

As of deadline, Seneca head football coach Bill Fisher had not responded to a request for comment.

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