On December 15th, the students of Cypress Bay High had their annual Holiday Luncheon and Secret Elf gift exchange. The wonderful luncheon took place at Chili’s for a second year. The HDS Foundation staff was able to join the classes festivities. The students picked out meals under $10 to purchase for themselves, and some chose to get a delicious desert as well. All throughout the meal, the students, teachers, and HDS Foundation crew engaged in great conversations, allowing the students to practice social communicative skills. When drinks, food, and checks were brought to the table, the students practiced more social skills by thanking the waitresses bringing everything out.

The Secret Elf exchange was, for most of the students, the best part of lunch. For Secret Elf, each student was given a list of items they could be gifted, and they selected their preferred gifts so that the total was under $10. They each put their names on the wish-lists, and the lists were shuffled in a hat and redistributed. They then went to A.C. Moore to pick out the presents for their Secret Elf, and paid for them, allowing them to further the social skills needed to maneuver around a store. They chose the wrapping for their presents, some in fun bags with colorful tissue, others wrapped with fun paper. They each also wrote a card to their Secret Elf, so their Secret Elf would know who had gifted them the present. When the time came to open up the presents, everyone was thrilled to have received what they wanted. They focused on saying thank you to the person that had given them their gift, and appreciating the gifts they had received.

In addition to receiving their Secret Elf gifts, the students and teachers received a gift from HDS Foundation, and as a special thank you to the teachers. Carla Otiniano the Program Manager gave a wonderful speech, thanking the teachers for their amazing work and letting the students know how amazing it has been working with them. Everyone had a great time opening and appreciating their gifts, and conversation seemed to flow effortlessly among everyone who was there.

When it was time to pay, the students all calculated the tips they needed to add to the bill, helping them develop skills needed in adulthood. After everyone had payed, gotten back their cards, and thanked the waitresses, it was time to go. All in all, it was a very successful luncheon, and everyone had a great time! Thank you to Cypress Bay for a wonderful first semester this year with BRIDGES, it is incredible working with you!