FAIRMONT — Although Akira Jones is nonverbal, that doesn’t stop her from getting her point across.

Members of Morning Star Baptist Church on Sunday celebrated Akira’s May 26 graduation from the Project SEARCH program where she interned at J.W. Ruby Memorial Hospital in Morgantown.

Akira’s mother Lisa Jones said the program was great for Akira, despite it being delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“She was able to complete the whole program. Also, now she’s able to go out and get a job,” Lisa said.

She said Akira learned a lot of different skills and loved the program. Lisa also wanted to thank the Marion County Transit Authority who helped her get to work from Fairmont.

“They had to come and get them everyday Monday through Friday and gave them transportation from Taylor County and Marion County,” Lisa said.

Lisa said she was surprised by Akira getting recognized on Sunday in front of the church. She said the pastor had mentioned he wanted to see Akira but didn’t think she would be publicly recognized for her accomplishments.

“It’s a blessing,” Lisa said.

Pastor Wesley Dobbs, who has been the family’s pastor for over 20 years, said Akira made the congregation so proud.

“She has that disability but she did not let that stop her. She went on and she persevered as one out of five students and that’s great,” Dobbs said.

He said Akira has been coming to church at Morning Star for such a long time and she’s always been faithful.

“We wanted to show her our love for her and what she had accomplished and that’s what we wanted to do today,” Dobbs said.

Dobbs gave Akira a medal that he himself had said he had received some time ago for his own accomplishments.

“But my accomplishments were nothing compared to hers. Nothing, so I just had to share that with her because she deserves every bit of it,” Dobbs said.

There are currently 621 program sites in 47 states and 10 countries across the world that have a Project SEARCH program. Project SEARCH’s main goal is to secure competitive employment for people with disabilities.

Dobbs said the congregation is a close family, and the church loves the youth who worship at Morning Star.

“Here, we like to make sure all the kids get an opportunity and if you never give a child an opportunity you can just put them out there, society will take care of them, take them over and run their life,” Dobbs said.

He said the church wants to let the kids know that they love them and they would do anything they can for them.

“Whatever it may be, and that’s what we want to show her today, our love for her,” Dobbs said.

Reach Sarah Marino at 304-367-2549

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