This April, the BRIDGES students visited the YMCA in Weston. The students had the opportunity to tour the facilities, ask questions, and even got to try out some of the gym equipment. They learned all about what working at the YMCA looks like, and all the services the Y provides to the community. The students first arrived at the YMCA and met with one of the supervisors, who gave them a general tour. They saw the basketball courts, the pool area, the gym areas and class rooms. They went into one of the gym activity class rooms and got to try out some of the equipment, like the balance trainers which were exciting. They even practiced their squats, getting a feel for the practice room. At the YMCA, they learned about different jobs and volunteer opportunities. Students can choose to volunteer with programs to help students in need by engaging in different exercise activities with them. They also learned about jobs such as cleaning staff, exercise coaches, personal trainers, and management staff. Each person has a very different role, but they are all essential in the management of the Y. The students learned about what each role entailed, and had some great questions about the roles that interested them. The BRIDGES students had an amazing day at the YMCA, and really enjoyed learning all about what the Y has to offer to the community. Thank you so much to the YMCA for hosting the students and giving them a tour of the facilities!
April 2nd has been declared by the United Nations as World Autism Awareness Day, and April as World Autism Month. This year, the Foundation, the HDS Companies, and the employees dressed in blue to celebrate World Autism Awareness Day. To celebrate World Autism Awareness Day, Autism Speaks created the Light It Up Blue campaign in which thousands of people around the world honor the individuals and families affected by Autism. Autism is an intellectual and developmental disorder that affects the ability to communicate and interact. One in 68 children in the United States are diagnosed with Autism, and more than 3.5 million individuals live with an Autism spectrum disorder.
Every year the HDS Companies and employees Light It Up Blue to support the Autism Speaks’ campaign. The Foundation also promotes Autism awareness on social media with #LightItUpBlue and the profile pictures that are updated to reflect support for the campaign. Employees take signs home to place in their front yards and/or purchase blue light bulbs which not only light up their homes in blue, but is an automatic donation to Autism Speaks. This campaign’s message is to “Shine a Light on Autism,” and HDS truly shines the light every year. The Light It Up Blue event was a success as we raised awareness and shared in spreading the message.
At HDS, we are committed to helping raise awareness for Autism and related disorders. Our founder, Cristina Miranda Gilson created the HDS Foundation inspired by the need she experienced first-hand raising a child with Autism. HDS Foundation was established to serve as the catalyst to bring resources to families with Autism and related disorders. We also partner with high schools like Cypress Bay Senior High School to create social skills classes, preparing high school students for post-secondary education. The Foundation and its program seek to identify the peripheral needs of students with ASD-related disabilities, who are looking for a college degree and to live an independent college life, furthering the Foundation’s mission aim at mentoring, achieving and living. Check out our photos below! How do you #LightItUpBlue?
The College Living Experience’s (CLE) Summer Residential Camp is a great way for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities to transition from high school to post-secondary education. The students have a support system so they are not alone when they are immersed into the college experience. Students attend the residential camp for two weeks, from June 18th to July 1st . The tuition of $3,800 covers housing, activities, and meals for the two weeks, and there is a $75 application fee as well.
The application to the CLE’s Summer Residential Camp includes personal, family, and educational information, as well as short answer responses to “getting to know you” questions. The application also includes a letter of recommendation that must be completed by a professional, educator or counselor, that has worked closely with the student.
The Summer Residential Camp is also called the Summer Career Exploration because it teaches students skills they can use once they begin working, and they also learn social skills by working with a team to explore different types of work environments, and participating in daily team building activities. The various work environments allow the students to develop skills such as career readiness, self-determination, leadership and interpersonal skills, and organization and time management.
The CLE is closely partnered with local community agencies and local volunteer facilities to integrate the students not only into the workforce but into the Fort Lauderdale community. Through the agencies and volunteer placements, students will learn about customer service, proper work etiquette, and on the job duties.
College isn’t just about learning workplace skills, though, and the CLE’s summer program prepares its students for all aspects of college. Once they are finished with their service projects and trainings each day, the fun begins! Students participate in all sorts of fun activities, from exercise and sports to fun outings! These are daily group outings to enhance social skills both with their fellow students and in the workplace. They also are then presented with a variety of situations to use their social skills, including new settings. They also have the ability to reflect on their social experiences with the CLE psychologist and their focus groups every week.
Students will also importantly learn what it means to live in a college dorm. These dorms are supervised, and each student has a roommate. Students are then able and encouraged to practice practical independent living skills. They become comfortable with utilizing public transportation, managing finances, meal preparation, room organization, and hygiene routines and laundry.
The College Living Experience’s Summer Residential Camp is a very effective and supportive environment for students to immerse themselves into a college-like environment without having to be completely on their own. The HDS Foundation highly recommends the CLE Summer Residential Camp to any high school student with an intellectual or developmental disability who is interested in pursuing a post-secondary degree or joining the workforce. Best of luck to those who apply, it is sure to be an amazing experience! https://experiencecle.com/career-exploration/
This month, the BRIDGES class took a trip to the Weston Regional Park. The purpose for this trip was to do a team building exercise outdoors. The students all had a great time, and were excited to get out of their usual classroom setting. Everyone enjoyed the fresh air and games, and it really helped the students build their social skills in many ways.
The point of any team building exercise is to strengthen the group dynamics so that everyone learns to work as one unit. A large component of working as a team, and a large component to the BRIDGES class, is improving communication skills which is vital in team building. Team building exercises, such as obstacle courses, are trust games which require a high level of communication so that there is organization and cohesion. It makes tasks like delegating, giving instruction and participating easier, as everyone will understand the plan and be able to do what needs to be done to get there. The BRIDGES students definitely used and improved their communication skills to be able to complete these exercises as efficiently as possible.
Another skill that the BRIDGES students had to use was cooperation. When working in a team, sometimes ideas or personalities may clash a bit, but compromise and cooperation help set these differences aside to reach the common goal. The BRIDGES students all had different approaches to completing the exercises. If they were all about going with their own ideas separately, they would not have been successful. Instead, they had to come together as a team and figure out which ideas would be best and how everyone could work together to reach their goal. Additionally, they realized that not everyone could be the leader, and they had to cooperate by taking on different roles, even if they weren’t the student’s favorite role.
Finally, they had to work on their trust of one another. It was a lot harder for the students to trust each other with completing a task, especially when everyone has different ways of doing something. However, no student can do everything themselves, and when it came time to rely on their peers they were all pleasantly surprised with the results of their trust. Even though the task may not have been completed the same way they would have completed it, trusting others brought new vision and different outlooks that were essential to their goals being finalized.
It was a great day out in the park for the students. They all thoroughly enjoyed the fun and games, the fresh air, and the exciting new way of using and improving all of their social skills. All in all, it was a very successful day.
Being a first responder is no easy task, but it is definitely an exciting profession to learn about. This month, the BRIDGES class was able to visit the Fire Department and learn about what it takes to be a firefighter. The BRIDGES students seemed very intrigued by what it means to be a firefighter, and may have even thought of being a firefighter after this inspiring visit.
First the students walked through the facility and explored the firehouse. Firefighters spend lots of time at the firehouse, and have very long work days. When they are not taking calls, they check that all of their equipment is working, keep the firehouse clean, and train. They train almost every day of the year so that they can always be the best at what they do. The BRIDGES students were able to see where the firefighters stayed if they spent the night, and the different places where they trained, took calls, and had meals.
Probably the most exciting part of the tour was going into the garage and seeing the equipment itself. The students got to see the firefighters’ uniforms and helmets, and saw a firefighter dressed in them. They got to see and even carry the hose, and understand how heavy it is and why firefighters have to train so much. They got to see the water backpacks that firemen use when they can’t take the trucks to the site, their flashlights, and the power tools that they used to get people out of dangerous situations. The coolest part of all was getting to see the firetrucks and even go inside of one! Inside, the students saw the control panels for the water that is stored in the truck, the driving area, and even where they turned on the sirens. They all had the opportunity to take pictures with the firetruck, and seemed so excited to have experienced going inside of one.
Being a firefighter is a hard job that takes lots of training and responsibility, and getting to learn about what makes a firefighter was an incredible experience. Thank you to the City of Weston Fire Department for taking the BRIDGES program on a great tour!
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