You can do it!

BY Dexter McCree, Feature Writer

ST. PETERSBURG – You can do it! Those four words have been a life statement and personal testimony for Justin Gamble, a 2018 graduate of The Boca Ciega High School.

Justin had always been a bright, ambitious young man throughout his early childhood, overcoming obstacles unknown to most students. Now that his tassel is on the left-hand side, he showed once more that all things are possible with faith and determination.

Like most kids his age, Justin’s life began with education at home and in daycare. But, unlike many children, he lived a lifestyle not many can relate to— though not always apparent at times.

At the age of three, he was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, a developmental disorder that affects communication and behavior.  Seen as a setback to some, Justin used his uniqueness to propel him through a very athletic and high achieving life.

Justin Gamble photo, graduationHe set himself up for a promising future that would serve as a model to others and a reminder that no matter what, you can do it.

“My struggles are not always obvious to many but are seen as quirks,” Justin revealed. “These challenges have enabled me to put my energy into moving forward.”

Living with autism, Justin faced many challenges in high school such as his struggles to socialize with others, but he didn’t let it hold him back. He knew he could do it. Justin made a plan and put it into action.

He reached out to others during lunch, physical education and other social activities on campus. He also became more engaged with the City of St. Petersburg Therapeutic Recreation Department, showing his determination to connect and engage with those around him.

Justin was very active in community arts and athletics, participating in Special Olympics Track and Field events, Tae Kwon Do and summer bowling. It was through these activities and interactions with other kids that he realized and understood his strengths more clearly.

The same skills he learned in sports would now help him work with the Mt. Zion Progressive Missionary Baptist Church Warriors of Praise Mime Troupe. The mime troupe has made a healing impact throughout the city and has positively affected his overall confidence and abilities.

“I enjoy dancing, ministering and performing,” stated Justin. “These social activities have encouraged me to be more willing to communicate with others and push myself.”

While in high school, Justin completed job readiness training with Publix Supermarkets. He also attended a program through Pinellas County Schools that was designed to prepare special need students for the workplace.

Now that he’s graduated, Justin will receive training through Extended Transition of Pinellas County. This training will help him to adapt to living and thriving independently. He will also receive additional training within John Hopkins All Children’s Hospital.

“My individual challenges have not dampened my desire for higher education. The dream for higher education has not and will not fade,” averred Justin.

His parents, Patti and Keith Gamble, have raised a model citizen within the community, demonstrating that persistence and determination will pay off. Justin has shown us all that no matter what obstacles you may face, you can do it.

Jah’tia Haynes contributed to this article.

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