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A Week to Remember: Germantown Boy Meets Pope and Veep

Last week could have been the greatest week in Jake Edwards short life. The Germantown boy enjoyed a week which few people could ever conceive in dreams.

In the span of four days, Jake met Vice President Biden on Monday, was interviewed on Good Morning America on Tuesday, had an up-close encounter with Pope Francis on Wednesday, and delivered a speech to police officers in training in North Carolina on Thursday.

Not your average week for a 13 year-old with autism.

Germantown Pulse readers first met Jake back in July, as the Montgomery County Police Department’s Autism Ambassador. Jake and Officer Laurie Reyes are helping to change the way police officers respond and interaction with people with autism. In that capacity, Jake delivered a speech to at MCPD’s Autism Safety Night Out in May.

Last Monday, Sept. 21, Jake, his family, and Officer Reyes were honored at the White House as a part of the Champions of Change for their work in helping bring the police department and members of Montgomery County’s autistic community together for a better police response to individuals with intellectual/developmental disabilities.

Jake and Officer Reyes met with Vice President Joseph Biden, and Attorney General Loretta Lynch and participated in a discussion on police and efforts to reach out to subsets of the communities in which they work.

Of his time at the White House, Jake said, “I'm happy. And think I'm saving lives.”

On Tuesday, Jake was interviewed by Cecilia Vega from ABC News for a piece about Jake meeting Pope Francis and his trip to the White House. That story aired Wednesday morning on GMA.

Later on Wednesday, Jake was among the fortunate few who were allowed to greet Pope Francis outside the Apostolic Nunciature in Washington D.C. where he was staying during his visit to the area last week. Pope Francis came out and greeted Jake and the other children and parents gathered. Jake was able to touch the Pontiff’s hand.

“It was like touching God,” said Jake.

On Thursday, Jake and his mom drove to Rutherford County, NC, where Jake was the final speaker at the Rutherford County Sheriff’s Department Crisis Intervention Training session. Jake gave a speech, similar to the speech he’s given to police recruits in here Montgomery County, explaining how people with autism may not react the way that a police officer expects a normal person to react which can quickly heighten the tension for both parties, which can lead to injury or death.