written by Estefania Flores, Transition Coordinator, AHRC Middle High School
Students at AHRC Middle High School are learning new professional skills every day! Here are some examples:
For the past five months, every Tuesday and Thursday, Jalyn C. has been enthusiastically working at the Fort Hamilton CVS Store. He has a number of responsibilities there. He makes sure that all the items on the shelves are faced, whereby each item is moved to the edge of the shelf, giving it a look of being fully stocked.
Jaylyn also makes sure that the shelves are free of all dirt and dust. On Thursday with the help of Jessica VanArnum, BTA Specialist, they unpack new merchandise and place them on the proper shelves. This has been an extremely valuable learning opportunity for Jalyn, giving him actual working experience.
New students are beginning their vocational training at our Marshall’s Department Store. We are continuing our partnerships which now focus on students that have shown proficiency in our internal school internships and now have graduated to external opportunities.
Students Olivia and Patrick began practicing how to fold clothes at the school. They quickly got the hang of it and are now going to Marshall’s once a week to perform this task and more. Students are assisting Marshall’s staff in the stockroom unpacking their merchandise and distributing them to different locations at the store. Congratulations to Ronny, Steven, Olivia, and Patrick for their achievement and their continued success at Marshall’s.
Maimonides Medical Center
There are four different work locations at Maimonides Medical Center for MHS students. One student is working in the finance department sorting patient files and putting them into the proper folders. Aser F. is currently working in the rheumatology department alphabetizing patient files to be filed in their records, and three other students are working in the ophthalmology department sorting and stuffing envelopes that have to be sent out to the various patients of the hospital.
Every Thursday they stamp and sort the various foreign language newspapers that are then distributed to the patients in the hospital. Our students continue to build their skills across different settings.
High School Class 203 is thrilled to be participating in our new Home Depot workshops. Students are learning how to install light fixtures and ceiling fans. All the students are looking forward to their next visit where they are going to learn new skills. This workshop teaches our students about various home safety devices and products that Home Depot sells. This shows them how some of the products are assembled and what they are used for in one’s home. Thank you to the Home Depot Store located in Red Hook for creating this great opportunity and for raffling off fire extinguishers, non-electric light bulbs that glow by the touch of the hand, fire and smoke detectors.
Minkos students are busy at work completing jobs for AHRC training department, HASC, Brooklyn Blue Feather, and the Quality Assurance Department.
Students have completed a multitude of copies, bookbinding, shredding, proclamations, and laminating works.
The weather outside was frightful, but the children’s cheer inside of Francis of Paola Early Learning Center was only delightful. On December 18th, 2018, the school held its annual Winter Carnival and was paid a visit by its local Assemblyman, Joseph R. Lentol. The assemblyman came to meet with the children and staff members as well as view the ways technology is being used in the school as a result of a grant Francis of Paola received from the New York State Assembly.
As part of the Winter Carnival, children created fake snow, played winter-themed games with one another and with their teachers, and learned about what winter weather entails and which holidays are celebrated in late December. Assemblyman Lentol joined in on the fun by joining the kids in their games and asking them what they were looking forward to during the holiday season. Teachers at the school showed the assemblyman various videos, photos, and lessons that have been uploaded to iPads that were provided to the school thanks to the Assembly’s grant.
Later, Assemblyman Lentol joined over two dozen children and teachers in a classroom where a SmartBoard has been set up. The SmartBoard allows for interactive and engaging lessons. The assemblyman sang a number of holiday songs with the children and was introduced to the kiddie-song sensation “Baby Shark,” which all of the students enthusiastically knew the words to.
“It was a pleasure to attend Francis of Paola’s Winter Wonderland Celebration,” Assemblyman Lentol said. “I was thrilled to see the students interacting with the new technology. It showed me and I am sure others would agree that technology exponentially helps a student’s learning ability so it’s important that we invest as much as we can in using technology in the classroom.”
Brooklyn Blue Feather Elementary School held its first Team-Building Day on the afternoon of November 15, 2018. Despite the snowy weather, the event, led by John Goodson, Assistant Director of AHRC NYC’s Educational Services, was a great success. Staff participated in four team-building activities, (Story Starters, Four Corners, Building Bridges, and Silent Tower) which were intended to encourage collaboration, teamwork, and professional respect.
Team Building Exercises
Story Starters promoted conversations among staff about personal details of their life, including recollections of memorable childhood vacations, high school dances, and different learning institutions they attended. They were then asked to reveal interesting anecdotes that had learned to the larger group.
During the Four Corners exercise, staff members were asked to move themselves to one of four labeled corners, (Structure, Relationships, Meaning, and Action) that best aligned with their reasons for working for AHRC NYC and in Special Education. Members of each of the corners then provided advice for the other corners about how best to work with them.
Building Bridges required two teams to build half of a bridge without seeing the other team’s work. At the end of the activity, the partition was removed to see if the bridges could meet and function as a pathway.
The final activity, Silent Tower, asked small groups to build marshmallow and toothpick towers without speaking.
The staff acknowledged having learned about each other as a result of Team-Building Day and discussed ways that they could apply the information to their work in the school’s classrooms. The success of the inaugural day of team-building exercises has inspired John to replicate the event at other school sites during the coming school year.
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!
What began as just a little walk ended up being not so little. Staff and students at Howard Haber Early Learning Center kicked off Autism Awareness Month with an Awareness Parade. The staff and students at Howard Haber received an outpouring of love and support not only from the immediate families of HH students but also from the community.
The police officers of the 45th Precinct came to secure the route and interact with the children. Some officers walked with us while another rode with lights and played music through their speakers while talking with the kids.
NY1, News 12, and the Bronx Times came down to walk with us and cover the story.
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.
Students at AHRC Middle/High School were given the gift of music this holiday season. Sing for Hope, a non-profit seeking to expand opportunities in the arts in New York City, donated one of their famous pianos to the school in the fall and formally christened the instrument with a ceremony on Thursday, December 14th.
About Sing for Hope’s Pianos
“We get artists that come in to paint about 50 pianos that get placed in public spaces during the summer months, and then the pianos are donated to schools,” said Daniel Smiertka, a representative from Sing for Hope. “Usually the students don’t have access to instruments like this because pianos are a lot of money to buy and maintain.”
You may have seen a Sing for Hope piano before without realizing it. In June 2017 they were found in all five boroughs, usually in frequented areas such as Central Park, Grand Army Plaza, and the boardwalks in Rockaway Beach and Staten Island, (several were installed at Liberty Plaza near AHRC New York City Headquarters). Each piano has a unique design reflecting an artist’s personal vision of the Sing for Hope mission.
MHS’s piano was designed by Jennifer Kakaletris Boyar and was previously located at Dag Hammarskjöld Plaza near the United Nations complex. It has Keith Haring-inspired lettering and designs, with Lady Liberty and the phrase “Art for All” spread throughout.
“I saw the pianos first on the street years ago, and this past year I was inspired to give a piano submission and it’s been awesome,” Jennifer said. “I’m so honored it’s here, it’s so cool. While I was working on it I thought about where its final home was going to be, and it looks great here.”
We’re All in the Mood for a Melody
MHS Principal, Andrew Winfrey said that the school applied for the piano over the summer, and it was delivered in early October. At the ceremony on December 14th, the piano was introduced to the school at large by Frank Malloy IV, Sing for Hope’s Program Manager, and Neil Davis, a New York City-based singer-songwriter.
“I’ve gotten to volunteer at hospitals and schools underserved with music,” Neil said. “I love the mission and as an artist myself it’s always nice to get [the music] out of you and bring it forward for other people.”
Neil first led all students in a musical scales exercise to warm up their vocal chords. He then played an original song that had plenty of collaborative singing before finishing up with a few songs in the Christmas canon, such as “Jingle Bell Rock” and Wham!’s seminal “Last Christmas.”
“We’ve done so many different schools and seen so many positive reactions,” Neil said. “You realize how universal music is.”
On Tuesday, November 14, 2017, the students of Class 216 at Brooklyn Blue Feather Elementary School took a trip around the world! Speech Therapist, Erin Spilberg and Behavior Trainer Assistant, Louann Cadle, utilizing the principles of collaboration, embarked on a journey with their students. Their destination was one of the countries that comprise the western hemisphere, specifically focusing on a social studies unit: Geography and Early Peoples of the Western Hemisphere. Through the use of books, maps, and the internet students became knowledgeable and better prepared to choose a country to conduct research. Students studied a country’s topography, climate, natural resources, its history, and basic facts that a tourist might need to know if visiting.
The project culminated in a presentation to school staff and classmates. As the students made their presentations an appreciative and loud round of applause could be heard in the halls of the school. And like most world travelers, the students needed a passport. So each student created a passport complete with a photo. As a consequence, through the use of each other’s research projects, the students were able “to travel” to many countries around the world. To demonstrate what they learned, these “travelers” were required to state three facts about the country. As a reward, their passports were stamped allowing them to continue their journey to another country. Wow, what world-weary travelers are the students of Class 216!
On Tuesday, July 18, 2017, students from a Japanese university received a hands-on look at how children with disabilities learn at AHRC Middle High School, (MHS). The visit was arranged in part by Dr. Raymond Franzem, Director of Internships. Appropriately, most of the students were undergraduates studying either Special Education or social work at the University of Tokyo.
The students began their day in the MHS cafeteria where Principal, Andrew Winfrey, provided a broad overview of the school. With the help of a translator, he explained the school’s demographics, administrative structure, service types, and teaching techniques that are available to students as they learn about a variety of academic subjects.
Throughout the visitors’ tour of the school, they had the opportunity to meet students as they passed through the school’s hallways, on their way to classes, The students exchanged pleasantries with the Japanese guests. Teacher, Anne Keane, made mention that during lunchtime students open up a mini-café in the cafeteria, selling healthy snacks and drinks.
The visitors toured classrooms on all four floors of the building, observing students and teachers in the learning environment. Andrew and Estefania Flores, Transition Developer, pointed out many teaching techniques, such as PECS.
For their final classroom visit, several of the visitors partnered with the school students for an origami airplane art project. Students learned the basics of the ancient and dexterous paper medium, and many proudly let their creations fly once complete.
Reconvening in the cafeteria, a brief question and answer session closed out the visit. One person asked about MHS students options following their graduation from the school, providing an opportunity for school staff to inform them about AHRC NYC’s Melissa Riggio Higher Education Program, which provides young adults with disabilities with individualized academic, vocational, community and social experiences, preparing them to be competitively employed and to obtain higher earnings. It was explained that following graduation from MHS, some students Transition to adult programs offered by AHRC NYC and other organizations in the disability services field, while some students take a break to make decisions about their future options.
One visitor asked what the significance of the artwork lining the walls was. Estefania explained that with the help of Sarah St. John, the school’s Art Teacher, students created the art in preparation for this year’s middle school and high school proms.
To finish their day, the Japanese students went to Fordham University to hear Dr. Franzem speak about further issues relating the developmental disabilities field.
June 27, 2017 was the Brooklyn Blue Feather Moving Up Ceremony. The Class of 2017 had students who will be going to our middle school, District 75, and other nonpublic schools (NPS).
It was a wonderfully attended ceremony and several awards were given out to very deserving students. It was our 10th graduation ceremony at is current location.