South Charlotte

Goodwill award winner has 'come a long way'

In middle school, Steven Struble was nicknamed "Cheeseburger" by the cafeteria staff because he loved cheeseburgers.

At the Goodwill Cornerstone celebration on May 19, they didn't serve cheeseburgers for lunch, but Struble got something that will provide more sustenance. He learned the power of believing in himself.

Struble, 20, was one of three recipients of the 2011 Good Works! Award given to those who have used Goodwill services and excelled.

Struble, who has high-functioning autism, received Vocational Coaching Services from Goodwill and worked with job coach David Washam.

Washam started coaching Struble while he was a still a student at South Mecklenburg High School, where he graduated from in 2009.

Through regular meetings, Washam helped Struble find training opportunities and assisted him during his job hunt. He also taught him "skills like eye contact, communication and how to be professional," said Struble.

The hard work paid off when he landed a job at Old Navy in Pineville.

Washam knew that Struble would be successful "from the moment I met him," he said.

His biggest obstacle was believing that he could do it. Struble would express self-doubt when confronted with something new, said Washam.

Struble, who was an equipment manager for his high school baseball team, likes to use baseball analogies to talk about his experience with Goodwill.

"You're on the top of the plate with your baseball bat and there are two strikes and two balls and this is the final inning. If you get this hit, you take your team to the championship. And that's how me and Mr. Washam basically did it. I took a swing and I'm here getting this award," he said.

Struble expressed gratitude for his job coach by giving him credit for his success, saying that he "would give the award to Mr. Washam."

In his acceptance speech, he spoke of his evolution with Goodwill and the training he received.

"I didn't realize at the time, but my life was changing. I started gaining confidence that I didn't have before, and I am now more independent," said Struble.

He enjoys seeing his friends at work and calls it the best part of his job.

"They're like 'Cheese, you work here now. And I'm like, 'Yeah, dude, I thought you knew.'"

A Special Olympics participant in track and basketball, Struble also enjoys running and riding his bike and moped through Pineville. He also helps at his church, Stough Memorial Baptist, said Tammi Thompson, his mother.

"The doctors always told me Steven's going to go far in life because of his personality," said Thompson . "I'm very proud of him. He's come a long way."

The award confirmed for Struble what so many seemed to already know.

"They (Goodwill) helped me not only believe in myself, but they also helped me understand that there is a bigger world out there for me. Bigger than high school. Even bigger than baseball."