Nothing can stop Wickes grad from lending a helping hand

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John Wickes Elementary School in Warwick is home to about 350 students, from kindergarten to sixth grade. Katie McAuslin of Warwick went to Wickes for elementary. Now 26, she works at the school as a lunch aide. That would surprise some people, since Katie has cerebral palsy, but she doesn’t let that stop her.

“With my disability, most people don’t think I can work,” says Katie. “I want people to look past the disability.”

Roy Costa started as principal in 1999, when Katie was in the third grade. They built a rapport and continued to stay in touch when she went to Winman and graduated from Toll Gate. In the years following graduation, Katie wanted to work and knew just who to get in touch with.

“Mr. Costa knew what I can do,” said Katie.

Katie began volunteering at Wickes in 2011, where she worked in the library checking books. After three years of volunteering, Costa decided to make the position permanent in 2014. 

“She’s been great,” said Costa. “She’s just such a nice person: great personality, dependable and responsible.”

Now, every Thursday and Friday, Katie comes to Wickes with her aunt, Paula Pugh, who works as Katie’s aide during the week. They get there early to help set up the lunch area. During lunchtime, Katie will make sure everyone gets what they ordered and passes out milk and chips.

“I love working here and I love the kids,” she said. “It makes me feel good because I have a purpose and it’s made such a difference in my life.”

When Katie is not at Wickes she likes to play cribbage. She learned how to play with her grandfather and keeps it up with her Aunt Paula. A couple times a week Katie goes to the pool for physical therapy. She takes classes at the Community College of Rhode Island. Though she is an undecided major right now, Katie hopes to continue studying psychology.

“My strength is talking to people,” says Katie. “I just want to help people.”

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