By Jennifer McGraw

NATOMAS (CBS13) — Students with disabilities often struggle to get jobs once they graduate, but a statewide program is helping to change that and honored a student locally.

“I was surprised,” said Alex Olvera, now 18.

The Inderkum High School senior has struggled with a lifelong disability.

“I’ve always had trouble speaking correctly,” he said.

But last year he began working after school at a local CVS pharmacy through the Natomas district’s paid work ability program.

“They gain work experience, but I think they also gain life skills, how to work as a team, decision-making,” said Kathy Burris, a spokeswoman with CVS.

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The goal is to give students like Alex the ability to overcome their disabilities.

“It’s important that we are providing them job skills so that they can lead that productive life,” said Lisa Claussen, Natomas Unified School District spokeswoman.

Alex has excelled and won a statewide award from CVS for his outstanding job performance.

“I think everyone wants an opportunity and this was his opportunity to shine, and he did just,” Burris said.

His responsibilities included stocking shelves and checking prices, but his favorite job was something you might not expect from a person with trouble speaking.

“I love talking to the customers. They were so good to me and treated me with respect,” he said.

And now that he’s 18 and about to graduate he’s applying for a full-time job.

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“That was a great blessing when I was told I can go back there and work,” Alex said.

He’s now an inspiration for other youth determined too.

“I never thought it could help me that much. I knew it could help doing things around the store, but I never thought it would boost my confidence in speaking,” Alex said.

Funding for the work ability program comes from a state grant the district is hoping to keep.

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