Marilynn Martinez creates adult service program

Local woman starts group to help son, others with developmental disabilities

Photos provided by Marilynn Martinez
Marilynn Martinez is the executive director of PRISM.
Photos provided by Marilynn Martinez
PRISM is an adult service program that serves people age 18 and older.
Photos provided by Marilynn Martinez
Photos provided by Marilynn Martinez
Marilynn Martinez and her sons.
By Kathleen Sturgeon

In the summer of 2012, Marilynn Martinez decided to open a place where adults with developmental disabilities can go to work, including her son Connor.

“When he was entering high school, I was exposed to life after high school. I saw the options for continued learning and training opportunities were quite limited,” Martinez said.

She started networking and quickly learned services in the community were essentially nonexistent. She gathered community members and launched the nonprofit PRISM, which serves adults with different developmental disabilities.

“The ultimate goal is to create awareness in our community of people who may need support in order to be successful, and then add value to any environment.

We want to provide real work opportunities for every individual they serve, including getting paid for the work they do. We also want to provide an environment for social opportunities.”

Referred to as a skill-building program, PRISM has training programs for both hard and soft skills through classes and onsite work. Different programs include recycling for businesses and flea markets which will soon transfer to being green-only products.

“We are very environmentally friendly at PRISM,” she said. “There are a lot of small businesses who can’t recycle either because it’s not convenient or it’s too costly. So we have a business that meets that need and enables businesses that wouldn’t be able to recycle to let us come in and do it. It’s a win-win where not only are we contributing to a greener planet, but providing paid work for our participants.”

With 20 years of corporate experience, Martinez has managed projects with logistics and has served as assistant vice president at SunTrust working on retirement plan conversions.

But as her son’s needs became more intense, she had to back off from the corporate world and devote more of her time to her son. Connor, now 21 and the inspiration for PRISM, will be joining the program in May.

“I needed to create a therapeutic environment for him when he wasn’t in school,” Martinez said. “I had to pick up where the school left off and pick up where his therapies ended.”

Located in Roswell, the group supports the surrounding area and anyone who reaches out.

“People don’t have to fit into a mold. We fit the services around the person,” she said. “We don’t just serve people with autism. But because the needs of people with autism tend to be pretty intense and they cover a spectrum, the type of techniques and experiences I’d had working with my son has helped form the framework for the curriculum and training procedures we use at PRISM.” But Martinez said she can’t do it alone.

“I have the most amazing team of people who work at PRISM,” she said. “I can’t explain the dedication, passion, commitment, experience and expertise this team brings to the community.”

The teams’ skills are crucial to help the participants as they move from an education or training environment to real work, she said.

“There’s a whole untapped world of potential for people with special needs,” Martinez said. “It isn’t readily recognized by the community. That’s why all of us do what we do at PRISM. We want to help them get out, help the community and show how productive they can be.”

This program ends up benefitting both the participants and the community. “Once they participate in our programs or have one of our participants in an internship, they realize all the gifts our adults bring to them and to everybody they serve,” Martinez said.

And on the opposite side, Martinez said the participants know they’re part of something bigger than themselves, including mentorships.

"They know they are productive members of the community,” she said. “The community will acknowledge them and value their contribution.”

However, there are still some misunderstandings in the community. “People may not know how to interact or what to do or not to do,” she said.

“That’s where we step in to advocate and facilitate these adults. We teach our adults to advocate for themselves as well.”

But Martinez said she is honored to work with this population and staff.

“It would be mission accomplished for me to be able to walk from this and know it’s a thriving entity and is still doing, working and growing in the way it needs to,” she said. “I’m honored to do what I do and make a tangible difference in people’s lives.” ■


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