On Saturday, April 28th, AHRC New York City, in collaboration with The Arc, Delta Airlines, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), held their 4th annual Wings for Autism event at LaGuardia International Airport (LGA). Over 20 families and 100 participants came for the event where they were able to rehearse all aspects of air travel. They were supported by 15 volunteers from AHRC New York City schools and Kerry Mauger, Training Coordinator from The Arc.
With the goal of helping families practice going to the airport and boarding the plane, Wings for Autism was a great success again this year. The event’s message was that “This Is Possible.”
“Year after year, Wings for Autism always surprises me and leaves me feeling more fulfilled than the year before,” said Corinne Young, a Behavior Trainer, and event leader. “The families and children are so excited to be trying out this experience to be able to enjoy a trip together in the future. Delta and TSA are amazing in all the ways they help and are able to cater to the unique needs of families. I’m looking forward to next year!”
The families arrived around 12:00 pm on what turned out to be a beautiful spring day. After checking in and receiving their event t-shirts, they received boarding passes and moved through the security line. At the gate, the families ate snacks provided by Delta and took pictures with airline and airport personnel. Boarding started at approximately 1:15. While on the plane, the families were guided through security and safety procedures and also given a visual tour of various on-ground airport job duties.
“I liked going into the plane,” said Dennis Nasonov, a student at AHRC Middle/High School. “We took pictures in the LGA, looking out the window and seeing the other planes.”
Fellow classmate, Tia Harper added, “I liked the event. It was fun!”
Thanks to Our Partners
Event coordinator, John Goodson, Education Training Director, would like to thank Jorge Chuzan and his Delta Airlines team as well as Guy Lainis and Veda Simmons from TSA, Emily Shyu from the Port Authority, and Corinne and the AHRC NYC volunteers. Wings for Autism is an initiative of The Arc of the United States. We look forward to holding the event again in April 2019 in recognition of Autism Awareness Month!
Students at AHRC Middle/High School (MHS) are preparing for the next stages of their lives by taking internships, attending resume writing workshops, and working with college students at Pace University.
Five MHS students (Michael, Alfonso, Ricardo, Nhojay, and Jasmin) have each been interviewed and accepted into the new CVS Internship Program. They all did such a fantastic job and the two interviewers at CVS were quite impressed with the students. These students have been working on their interviewing skills in school using the Links program. Their hard work has paid off as the students are very excited to begin their roles at CVS.
Kevin, Aser, Liam, and Patrick went on their first interview at Maimonides Medical Center. They were applying for a position at the volunteer center and will be doing clerical work. Students described their previous work experiences and why they wanted to work there. They then sat for a PowerPoint presentation about the rules and regulations of the hospital. They also were told about the hospital’s background and the people that they serve. Afterward, students were given a test about what they learned about the hospital and its rules and regulations. They all passed!
On March 28, 2018, Michael and Randy traveled to Manhattan by train to participate in a resume writing workshop that was put together by Karen Zuckerman, Director of Volunteering and Corporate Engagement. The workshop was conducted by corporate volunteers who independently sat with each of the student participants to help them think about and write a proper resume for when applying to use jobs in the working world.
Each volunteer explained how important it is to first think about and describe previous and current work experiences and to be able to put those thoughts to paper. They also asked them what types of jobs they would be interested in and how they would go about looking for them. They shared with the students their own experiences in looking for a job and how they went about it. The students found this session most productive and enjoyable. It gave them the ability and the experience to interface with working adults.
Fridays at Pace
The Friday Pace group commenced their semester at Pace University. Students were thrilled to return back to this program where they are paired with a Pace student. For this semester, students will work on a PowerPoint presentation about their future and interests. All students were engaged and super motivated to begin their work. Thank you to the Pace students who volunteered their time for this program and a special thanks to Dr. James Lawler for continuing to have this wonderful program for MHS students.
Special thanks to Frank Kule¸Tranistion Coordinator, for all of his hard work on our CVS and Maimonides Internships as well as Karen Zuckerman for coordinating the resume workshop.
AHRC Middle High School‘s (MHS,) graduation ceremony was held on Wednesday, June 28, 2017, in the Regina Pacis Basilica Chapel, which sits adjacent to the school. Students, their families, teachers, and guests gathered to celebrate the milestone.
“I can’t say enough about the tremendous staff that has supported you all the way to this graduation today. It means so much,” said Gary Lind, AHRC New York City’s Executive Director, addressing the graduating class of 2017. “Your families have been with you all the way along, and the community has been here in so many ways… Thank you for letting me share this special honor with you today. Congratulations and good luck.”
“I am very privileged to be here with all of you,” said Raymond Ferrigno, 4th Vice President of the AHRC NYC Board of Directors. “On behalf of the Board of Directors, I extend congratulations. AHRC was started by parents seeking education for their disabled children… The Board of Directors is by charter, a family-driven Board. We have skin in the game. We understand the challenges. And AHRC will be there in all the things you do after this.”
The Transition from School to Adult Life
Graduation is a Transition from school to the adult world. Transitions can be difficult for everyone at each stage of life, as we each undergo changes to the things we have grown accustomed to – the people around us, the places where we spend our time, and the things that make up our routines.
Students graduating from MHS, their family members, and the school’s Transition team prepare for this Transition by utilizing a person-centered process, to ensure that the graduates have received the adult placements of their choice. At MHS, preparing for adulthood begins long before the final year of a student’s time at the school, as they participate in school-based pre-vocational learning tasks, off-site internships, and explore the skills of everyday living.
Looking Ahead to Employment
Estefania Flores works as a Transition Coordinator for MHS. “The majority of my responsibility has to do with transitioning the students to the adult day programs, as well as facilitating and increasing the amount of internships that we do, and exposing our students to as much of the adult world as possible,” says Estefania. She notes that most of the internships are made as a result of informal relationships between the school staff and local business and organizations, which grow into formal internship opportunities.
The Middle High School provides a variety of opportunities for students to learn about employment, including off-site internships with local businesses, and on-campus pre-vocational activities such as the school’s Snack Shop, where students learn how to handle money using a cash register, and Minkos Copy Center, where students are trained to complete tasks similar to those of a commercial copy-making company, with some added modifications that enable them to accomplish their daily tasks. In addition to text prompts, the alternative communication system, known as the Picture Exchange Communication System, (PECs) is used throughout the copy center to facilitate clear communication among students with a range of disabilities. Tasks within the copy center include using the phone, making copies, hole-punching, laminating, shredding unneeded documents, and collating and binding documents.
“I learned how to cook things, and travel training,” says Darwyn Henriquez when asked to name skills he has learned that will help him in his life as an adult. Cooking is one of the several skills of everyday living that the students learn about at the Middle High School. The 4th floor of the school contains a working kitchen, bedroom, and living area where students practice the tasks they may one day use when living independently. As a student, Darwin also participated in an internship at the local Marshalls. “We basically folded clothes and cut up boxes, and organized clothes.” Darwin’s goals include getting a job at Best Buy and living in his own home.
As part of the 2017 graduating class, Martin Meyers has come a long way during his time at AHRC Middle / High School, and as he enters adulthood, he noted the importance of self-advocacy, saying, “You have to advocate for yourself and advocate for others. If they’re in trouble, you can have the ability to stand up for them, and do what’s right for not only yourself but for others.”
Marty has also learned several job skills, working along with his dad at a sandwich shop, cleaning and helping to prepare for catering events. When asked what advice he would provide to incoming students of the Middle High School, Marty said, “Never live in the past. Live towards the future, where bright and better things can happen.”
During the ceremony, graduating student Gabriel Maldonado, spoke about his favorite school memories and about the things he learned at MHS while attending the school. “In the future … I would like to be employed, live on my own and maintain good physical fitness. Thank you to all the teachers… my friends who have been helping me. I will always have good memories of my time at AHRC Middle High School. I hope all of you work hard to achieve your goals, and that they make you happy and blessed.”
Darwyn, Gabriel, and Martin have a lot to look forward to. In the fall they will each begin to take classes through AHRC New York City’s Melissa Riggio Higher Education program.
On Wednesday, May 10th, the students of AHRC Middle / High School, (MHS) explored the Grand Canyon, hung out with some jellyfish, and visited an underwater shipwreck. Sounds like an exciting day, right? Through the use of virtual reality equipment now available in the school, the students have new opportunities to experience simulated adventures like these throughout the school year.
“We see the value of using VR at the Middle / High School in a number of ways,” said John Goodson, Staff Training Director and Lead Investigator, Educational Services. “[Our students can experience] virtual field trips that would have otherwise been cost prohibitive, extending science and social studies lessons so that students can engage in more experiential learning, virtual travel training, and job practice.”
Yusef Nelson, the Technology Teacher at MHS, assisted students in putting on the equipment and providing instructions on how to use it, while also manning the computer screen to ensure the display was working properly. Depending on the day’s lesson, students can learn more about geography, human anatomy, marine biology, and many other subjects based on the choice of application.
“It’s a fusion of sensory and learning,” Yusef said. He is optimistic about using VR for a variety of learning opportunities. “You can upload videos for use in travel training. You can make your own videos and make it a collaborative project that the whole class can experience. They even have a meditation simulation.”
Yusef said students use the equipment roughly once per week. A viewing area is set up behind the equipment so that other students can watch the proceedings on a TV screen that displays what is seen by the student using the VR goggles and remote controls.
Omar, an MHS student, has used the VR equipment a few times since it was installed earlier this year. On this day, he used a program called TheBlu to swim with and interact with virtual jellyfish. Omar’s classmates could view the underwater ripples traveling through an invertebrate’s body.
“The first time I used [the VR equipment] I saw the Seven Wonders of the World,” said Omar with a grin, after completing his simulated aquatic excursion. “I really like seeing ancient things.”
John Goodson extended thanks to Phillip Proctor, Director, and Carol Ryklin, Technology Deployment Specialist/Trainer, from Individualized Technology Strategies for their assistance with purchasing and installing the VR equipment, as well Educational Services’ Ian Gray, Business Manager.
“We anticipate the VR becoming an integral part of the educational program at our school,” John said.
AHRC Middle/High School (MHS) held its graduation commencement ceremony on June 29, 2016. Nine students were honored for their achievements. The day featured speeches from AHRC NYC leadership, MHS staff, community leaders, and more.
The graduates were Harry Burekhovich, George Duah, Ciara McDonagh, Vanessa Silva, Nicholas Weafer,Constantino Chrysostomou, Anwar Jubran, David Cisse Parris, and Travis Thomas.
“If you think back to our origin story a parent in 1948 put an ad in the New York Post that said ‘Looking for other family members that want to start services,’” Gary Lind, Executive Director, said to the graduates. “Over 67 years we’ve been trying to provide supports and services for New York City and all from the spark of that parent. That’s what you represent here today. You are that hope, you are that heart of families and traditions going back generations and generations.”
The ceremony began with a video slideshow accompanied by the MHS Choir singing R. Kelly’s song, I Believe I Can Fly. Following another choir-led performance of the Star Spangled Banner , Rev. Monsignor Ronald T. Marino gave the benediction, followed by special awards given out on behalf of State Senator, Martin J. Golden.
In addition to Mr. Lind, MHS Principal Andrew Winfrey and Christina Muccioli, Director of Educational Services, gave speeches praising the graduates and staff for their accomplishments over their long tenures. Several staffers received flowers as a thank-you for their hard work and dedication.
The ceremony closed with a group performance of Rachel Platten’s Fight Song and a farewell message from student, Harry Burekhovich. Many of the graduates will move on to AHRC NYC’s adult programs. Others will take some time off before deciding their next step.
AHRC New York City congratulates all of the graduates and their families, and the entire staff at the Middle/High School for another successful and enriching year of support students with disabilities.
AHRC New York City is proud to congratulate two young adults as they receive accolades for their work at Brooklyn Blue Feather Elementary School, (BBF).
Kristen Alvy Receives Gold Award
Kristen Alvy was awarded the highest honor in Girl Scouts, the Gold Award! This honor is awarded to just one percent of all registered Girl Scouts. There are many components of the award but the most important is the service project. Kristen had to plan, write and execute a sustaining community project. Her project was about literacy at BBF. Kristen spent two summers, (over 85 hours,) visiting our school to read stories to each class.
During the winter months Kristen made about one hundred work folders, collected gentle used books, organized them by reading level, and delivered them to the school. She provided the school with over a thousand books! She also created a book return box for the library. When BBF Principal, ZoeAnn Deeds asked Kristen what was her favorite part of the project, her response was “reading to the students.” Kristen plans to attend college to become a teacher. Thanks, Kristen, for all you have done for the school!
David Kim Becomes Eagle Scout
Similarly, the Boy Scouts‘
highest honor is to become an Eagle Scout
. Less than five percent of all registered Boy Scouts achieve this rank. It requires a Scout to earn at least 21 badges and to develop, create, fund-raise, and execute a sustainable community project. David Kim
, under the leadership of Scoutmaster, Vincent Cirino
, refurbished the school’s courtyard. He made the area more inviting and pleasing for the students at the school. The students are currently enjoying his efforts and the ability to enjoy good weather in a safe outdoor area. Congratulations David Kim!
On Saturday, April 16, 2016, people receiving services through AHRC NYC programs, families, and staff from all across the five boroughs took to the stands, concourse, and even the outfield in the 2016 Special Needs Spartan Race. The multi-faceted obstacle course took place at Citi Field, home of the New York Mets, in Flushing Meadows, Queens.
Among the AHRC NYC services represented at the Spartan Race were Educational Services, Adult Day Services, Employment and Business Services, and Camping and Recreation.
The Spartan Course
The Special Needs Spartan Race is an obstacle course race designed to test resilience, strength, stamina, and ability to overcome adversity. Overseeing the safe and structured athletic event, the organizers of the Spartan Race provided students and families with an opportunity to challenge themselves, to spend time with friends, and to get some exercise.
Racers began the event in the left field concourse area, snaking their way through the seats, then turning up to the stadium hallways. They encountered climbing and ducking obstacles as they moved up and down stairways. Eventually, the athletes progressed through the left-field warning track, where each person faced a brief balancing test in foul territory. Finally, the racers climbed their way back up into the stands and hurried toward the finish line.
Throughout the course the students were cheered on by Spartan staff, who were dressed as superheroes such as Spider-Man, Captain America, and Robin. All participants received a medal for completing the race. To re-hydrate and replenish, the racers also received water, a banana and a protein bar once they crossed the finish line.
AHRC New York City thanks all of the families and staff members who came out for support and to race themselves, as well as Spartan Race, Inc. for making the day a fun-filled success.
Teens from the five boroughs were invited to the Metropolitan Museum of Art on October 16, 2015, to explore both the museum and a range of interactive art exhibits that had been positioned around the museum where teens could create their own art. Over 2500 teens attended.
A big thank you to Marie Clapot, Assistant Museum Educator for Access and Community Programs at the Met, who helped coordinate AHRC NYC’s involvement.
AHRC NYC’s Staff Training Director & Lead Investigator, John Goodson said, “I thought the Met was a fantastic opportunity for students to learn about past art, engage with contemporary art, and interact with their peers in a truly unique New York City location. We hope this marks the beginning of a co-beneficial relationship between AHRC Middle/High School and the Met.”
Senator Martin J. Golden visited AHRC Middle/High School on Thursday September 17, 2015. Christina Muccioli, Director of Education, and Andrew Winfrey, Principal of the Middle/High School, provided Senator Golden with a tour of the school introducing him to the students and their coursework.
Senator Golden was very receptive and understood the struggle that schools for students with developmental disabilities are facing. He spoke about ways to get more funding to the schools, how he feels about the matter, and his passion regarding the issue.
Thank you, Senator Golden, for your support!
On June 23, 2015, the AHRC Middle/High School celebrated the end of the school year with a second prom. The prom was sponsored by the 86th St. Bath Beach Kiwanis Club and it was attended by students and staff from Brooklyn special needs high schools. It was an off-site evening affair held at Sirico’s Catering Hall, complete with music, a DJ, limos, a photo booth, food, and dancing. The prom had 17 attendees with escorts and it was a rousing success. The students from different schools interacted, danced together, and had a great time.
A special thanks Susan Esposito and the 86th St. Bath Beach Kiwanis for their generosity and for putting on a great event!