On May 5th, 2016, the Cypress Bay High School BRIDGES class closed out the year with an HDS-sponsored party at Midtown Athletics. Although the main event of the day happened to be the party, the students also concluded their Social Skills curriculum with a tour of the facilities and discussions about a number of the jobs performed at Midtown. The Midtown Athletics Career Expo, as it was labeled, allowed the students to greater understand the science of exercise and how trainers can aid people in becoming fit. The event of the day proved so interesting and exciting that Channel 10 News actually stopped by Midtown and interviewed a number of people involved.
To start the day, the students arrived and were greeted by Midtown staff members, who, as previously stated, took the students around, gave them a complete tour of the grounds and exercise equipment, and talked to them about various career opportunities at Midtown and in the general field of exercise science. Following this, the students made their ways over to one of the building’s party rooms, in which food was eaten and conversations were had. The successes of the year and the progress each of the students made were discussed with great joy, and the numerous positive effects of the BRIDGES teachings were seen completely at this culmination of the year. Students who in September of 2015 were unable to comfortably speak to their peers were seen talking with ease about the past year and the future to all in attendance. Each of the students came with gifts for the HDS Foundation workers (who supplied the grant that made this class possible), and the Foundation came with gifts in return. Thank you to the students, parents, and teachers of the BRIDGES class. Although we have provided the funds, it is you all who have made our vision a reality. We are honored to have been the catalyst for such a life-changing class.
At the 2016 Dan Marino WalkAbout Autism at Sun Life Stadium, Team Cypress Bay raised the most money for the cause, having brought in $12,780. Because of their success, the Team was to be gifted a prize of their choice. They all chose to invite Michael Marino, Dan Marino’s son, to come and speak about his experiences with Autism.
To give a bit of background information, Dan Marino is active in the Autism-awareness community because his son, Michael Marino, has autism. He started The Dan Marino Foundation, Inc., which the WalkAbout Autism is a part of, to help spread awareness about Autism and provide support for the Autism community at large. So, when Team Cypress Bay, which was mainly composed of Cypress Bay’s Social Skills students, raised the most funds, it was only fitting for them to want to hear Michael Marino speak. For one, it was an interesting experience to meet and converse with the man responsible for the starting of the WalkAbout Autism. It was additionally beneficial for the students to ask Michael questions about his own struggles with Autism and how he overcame them.
On April 25th, 2016, Michael Marino visited the Social Skills students at Cypress Bay High School. Everyone ate Anthony’s Coal Fire Pizza, Michael spoke about his life, and the students asked him a number of questions. Michael gave in-depth descriptions about how he overcame bullying, how he learned to make new friends, and even how he began dating and ended up engaged. Michael seemed truly honored to help the students feel more comfortable navigating everyday life with Autism. The event had an effect on each of the student’s lives, as it opened up a world of possibilities for many of them. Knowing that someone with a disability similar to their own successfully made friends and built a committed relationship allowed many of them to feel that these things are undoubtedly possible for themselves. HDS thanks Michael Marino greatly for his time and effort; he has positively influenced the lives of these students.
On April 24th, 2016, The First Tee of Broward program concluded for the year at the end-of-program luncheon. Officially, the mission of this organization is to impact the lives of young people by providing educational programs that build character, instill life-enhancing values, and promote healthy choices through the game of golf. In teaching golf to teens and students, The First Tee hopes to aid them in learning the non-physical skills necessary to, for one, successfully play golf, but, also, to succeed in general life endeavors. Discipline and perseverance, for instance, are values held by nearly every professional golfer, but they are not only applied in the golfing realm. Virtues such as these can be utilized across all facets of one’s life (work, school, family, etc.). The First Tee hopes to help its participants realize the skills paralleled between golf and life and implement those skills into their everyday lives. And, judging by the conversations between the students at the luncheon, The First Tee’s goal was accomplished.
The HDS Foundation and Global Business Brokers teamed up and sponsored this lunch to thank the Cypress Bay High School Social Skills students, along with others in the community, for their participation in the program and the leaders of the program for their time and effort. Professional golfer Dustin Stearns and The First Tee of Broward program director Jack Bloomfield both attended the event. Additionally, one parent of each participant, along with the participants themselves, were invited. Those at the luncheon seemed to enjoy the food and company greatly, and the students were all overjoyed to receive accolades at the award ceremony. The program participants and their parents also showed appreciation to Dustin and Cristina for continuing to help teens with autism and intellectual disabilities. As a result of the success achieved throughout the program, The First Tee of Broward is going to be arranged annually, and the HDS Foundation and Global Business Brokers will continue to sponsor it. The organization also plans in the future to extend the age range of allowed participation to even younger groups than this past one, eventually welcoming ninth graders and younger. HDS is thankful to have been a part of The First Tee this past year and is excited to continue collaboration in the years to come.
The HDS Foundation, which is known to have strong ties to the special-needs community, was asked by the College Living Experience (CLE) to assist in giving mock job interviews at the CLE Fort Lauderdale location to individuals with disabilities looking to soon become parts of the working world. CLE hosted this event in efforts to provide support to students with disabilities who wish to progress professionally, socially, and educationally. Specifically, CLE aims to assist these students in developing skills related to four specific areas that affect life in many ways: academics, independent living, social skills, and career development. Through careful instruction pertaining to the previously listed topics, CLE hopes to sufficiently prepare its students for their futures of independent living, away from parental control and college. It is no wonder the HDS Foundation partnered up with CLE – both entities possess, essentially, the same overarching goal.
So, on April 18th, 2016, members of the HDS Foundation and Housing and Development Services made their ways over to CLE Fort Lauderdale to help deliver mock interviews. Each participating student chose which jobs they wanted to interview for beforehand, and each interviewer had a script to read from, providing instruction about the questions to ask and the quirks to watch for in relation to the responses provided by the students and the mannerisms they employ. There were two interviewers in each room, and the students rotated rooms after each interview to answer questions that applied to a different job than the one they had previously dealt with. Before each rotation, the interviewers offered individual feedback to the students. Such pieces of constructive criticism included the need for some to maintain stronger eye contact with the interviewer and for others to appear less tense. After all interviews were complete, everyone met in one large room to have lunch provided by CLE. During this time, the students talked about the experience and how they felt about it overall. Many felt more comfortable with the job interview process as a whole and were glad to have gotten constructive feedback. In the end, the activity was highly beneficial for the participants. They had the unique opportunity to gain understanding about and prepare for job interviews, which, because of the large part they play in entering the work force, are daunting for many of the students. HDS is glad to have been able to work with CLE, and a number of other such organizations, to make a real impact on the lives of those in need.
On Saturday, April 11th, 2016, the HDS Foundation participated in the Night of Stars, a 20th anniversary celebration for the Susan B. Anthony Recovery Center. This Recovery Center assists a defined group of people who generally need assistance; that is, women who are pregnant and/or mothering and who struggle with trauma, substance abuse, and mental health disorders. Susan B. Anthony, as an organization, strives to take women possessing the aforementioned traits in and lead them to the path of recovery, all while caring for their children. The Recovery Center cares immensely about that specific aspect (caring for children) of this large problem – they aim to help these troubled women get better without breaking families apart. They realize that foster care systems, and the difficulties and intricacies that come with finding lone children foster families, can be emotionally taxing on the child. So, in taking in entire families, the Susan B. Anthony Recovery Center is doing a service for mothers and children: the family is overjoyed to stay together, and the mother is additionally happy to be on the road to recuperation.
Realizing the positive impact the Susan B. Anthony Recovery Center has on the community at large, and having a tendency to be philanthropic, Cristina, founder of the HDS Foundation, decided to take part in the Night of Stars event. She bought out an entire table for the night, and HDS staff filled it in support. The Gala, as some referred to it, was a huge success, with much food eaten and many laughs shared. Between the silent and live auctions and ticket sales, as well as a number of donations, a large amount of funds was raised for the Broward County branch of the Recovery Center. As a result, more children in Broward can stay with their mothers, and more mothers in Broward can be taken in. The Susan B. Anthony organization, and all who played a part in this event, contributed to creating safer, happier, and healthier lives for many distraught women and children. HDS is glad to have been a part of it.