Chapin, SC - It’s lunchtime and Yates Sherer is making his way towards the cafeteria at Chapin Middle School. He’s not there to eat, though.
The Spring Hill High junior spends each Thursday assisting the student nutrition staff at Chapin Middle to date and stock cans of food on shelves. The job is a part of his special needs class at Spring Hill, and Yates embraces every bit of it.
“Someone needs help to do it, and that someone is me,” Sherer said. “I love doing this job. Every time I do the cans at Chapin Middle School, it makes me feel so happy, and when I get happy, I feel joy.”
Just 17-years-old, Yates has already experienced so much in life. Six days after he was born, Yates contracted a rare type of meningitis – a case where one in two children die in 24 hours. Due to the seriousness, he spent the first two months of his life in Palmetto Richland Children’s Hospital.
At less than three weeks old, Yates’ parents Beth and Brad received devastating news. Their son would be developmentally delayed and would probably never be able to walk, talk or sit up on his own.
“It was the worst news you could ever receive as a parent,” Beth said. “No child should ever have to go through something like this, especially your own.”
After countless surgeries and stints in various therapies, little Yates overcame the obstacles. He sat up on his own just before turning one, he took his first steps at 18 months using a special walker. Within that same time period, he learned baby sign language and used it for simple communication. Then in the early months of turning three, Yates spoke his first words.
“God has answered our prayers with Yates,” Beth said. “He has gone through so much, and has met and exceeded all of our expectations. We are so proud with how far he has come.”
“With Yates and all of our special needs students, we choose to focus on their capabilities, not the disabilities,” said Jackie Velarde, Spring Hill High special needs teacher. “When you shift your mindset, you realize this is just another student. We are so proud of how far Yates has come.”
From a distance, the job may seem minute, but to others, it fills a critical need.
“What Yates does allows our staff to do their jobs that much easier,” said Chapin Middle School principal Anna Miller. “It helps keep our students safe with having the dates on the cans. I love seeing how happy Yates is when he walks down our halls headed for his job. He feels satisfaction.”
Part of that happiness is knowing he’ll get to see someone special each Thursday. Beth is a teacher at Chapin Middle.
“It changes a part of you when you realize your child has been given a chance,” Beth said. “I remember the first day Yates came to work and seeing how happy he was. I called (Anna) and told her this is the greatest gift you could give me.”
And to reassure that gift was in good hands, Yates reminded everyone who was in charge.
“Have no fear, Yates is here!”