Beatriz Maxson, Learning Independence For Tomorrow Inc. (LiFT)
The LiFT U Knights found motivation, confidence and long-lasting friendship with high schooler Carson Wood. LiFT University Transition Program is a post-secondary program for adults with neurodiversity (autism, Down syndrome, learning disabilities, processing disorders and others) who require unique and highly individualized supports to further their education, find meaningful employment and increase their capacity for independence. Some struggle with confidence and need help developing social skills to allow them to succeed. LiFT U’s basketball team was founded to encourage teamwork, foster meaningful friendships, and promote healthy well-being. Program director Lois Mays collaborates with local high schools and community partners to see if they would be interested in playing against the LiFT U Knights as a way to improve their skills and encourage fun competition. It was during one of those competitions that Carson, a star basketball player on his school’s team, approached Lois with an idea.
Carson wanted to do more than just compete against the Knights on his school’s basketball court. He wanted to get to know them, mentor them, and show them how great they could be, regardless of the challenges their disabilities presented, when they put in the hard work. Despite a busy high school schedule and demanding time commitments in sports, Carson kept coming back to visit his friends at LiFT U; training the Knights not only how to hit a 3-point shot, but teaching them valuable lessons on the importance of teamwork, perseverance, and believing in themselves.
“They get after it!” says Carson. “And I love that. They’ve brought so much joy to my life. That’s my family, man.”
Carson has donated more than 100 hours volunteering with LiFT U’s basketball team; and when the Knights play against Carson’s high school team, he puts on his LiFT U jersey to play with his fellow Knights ‘teammates.’
Says LiFT U student and basketball player Matt, “Without him, we would never be here.”