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!
College isn’t just about going to class and writing papers. The full college experience includes meeting new people, making great friends, and having a blast. Social life is an essential and fun part of college, and that is no different for the Project THRIVE students. Last December, THRIVE organized a Christmas party for students to intermingle and have festive fun.
THRIVE Students have Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) or related disorders, and generally find it difficult to initiate social interactions and make connections with others. THRIVE realizes that socializing is an important aspect of college, and necessary in life. Therefore, THRIVE hosts these casual functions to promote interest in students and strengthen their ability to establish communication within and outside the THRIVE community.
The Christmas party kicked off with an amazing gingerbread house decorating contest. Everyone tried their hand at cookie construction while listening to holiday music that set the cheerful mood. The HDS Foundation is proud to have supported THRIVE by donating a variety of materials for the party. All of the students in attendance had a great time listening to music, building gingerbread houses, and eating candy in preparation for the exciting holidays that followed.
Happy holidays from THRIVE and the HDS Foundation!
October 29th marked the Second Annual Halloween Party for the Cypress Bay BRIDGES program. Both Parents and HDS Foundation staff members were invited to celebrate with the class. HDS Foundation was very happy to be invited to this party and were ready to have some fun! The event was held at Tarantella in Weston from 5:15 to 7:30 in the evening, who graciously hosted the party and served the students. Students were able to show off some newly learned skills to the HDS Foundation, and had the opportunity to dress up for the occasion.
At Tarantella, the students had the chance to use and showcase their social skills. The students all ordered meals and drinks, using effective and polite communication skills, as well as money managing skills, as they wanted to buy a well-priced meal once tax and gratuity had been added. They socialized well all throughout the meal with the students, teachers, and HDS Foundation staff, demonstrating a more casual set of communication skills. They used conversation starters to help them out at the beginning, but soon got into the conversation and were very animated in speaking and telling stories. When it came time to pay, they paid an appropriate gratuity amount and used their ATM cards, showcasing their skills in purchasing, as well as their understanding of gratuities and their importance when paying for services.
The students were also able to dress up, showing off their very distinct personalities. Costumes ranged from graphic tees showing off holiday spirit, to a spider witch, to a mobster, to a very detailed pirate. Dr. Sandy even showed up in a wolf’s head to the occasion! Seeing all the students in their costumes was truly incredible, as it showed off their very distinct and diverse personalities, personalities that also meshed so well over the party’s conversation. The costumes made the excitement for Halloween all the more real, and talk touched upon plans for trick-or-treating and candy. Which was terrific to overhear that the students were wanting to do after.
The Second Annual Halloween Party was a definite success. The students seemed to greatly enjoy this gathering, as well as participating in conversation with their classmates, teachers, and the HDS Foundation staff. The teachers spoke very highly of the party, and also seemed to truly enjoy this time to celebrate the upcoming holiday in a fun and exciting way. The HDS Foundation staff had an incredible time, and loved getting to see the skills the students had learned, and learn more about the students through conversation and through their original and diverse costumes. Everyone had an incredible time!
On October 1st, all the students of the Cypress Bay BRIDGES Social Skills class and their parents, who came to Cypress Bay for the day, met with a Bank of America representative. The Bank of American representative spoke to them about opening bank accounts for themselves, something that is crucial to adult life but is unfortunately not taught in schools. Each student was able to open their own bank account, giving them the ability to see the money they have in their account, as well as deposit and withdraw money, and use the money that is in their account. They will now be able to keep track of their money and use their bank cards to pay for their purchases in other community based instructions or use their spending money. Having the parents there with their students was special both for the students and the parents. The students got to have the support of their parents as they opened their very first bank accounts, and the parents got to see the impacts of the Social Skills class and see their students learning how to live more independently. HDS Foundation’s very own Carla, Dr. Sandy, and Meagan were able to attend this event, and had a wonderful time. Everyone had bright smiles and there was a general feeling of accomplishment and excitement buzzing in the room. All in all, it was a very successful day.
On September 29th, the students of the BRIDGES Social Skills class at Cypress Bay had their second community based instruction. This one was similar to the first community based instruction at Office Depot, but there were lots of notable differences. This time the students ventured to their local Publix, where they had to independently purchase lunch for themselves. The lunch had to include an entrée, a drink, and a snack or dessert. Their budget was once again $15. A major difference between this trip and the one to Office Depot was that they had to work independently to purchase their lunch. The students enlisted the help of the store employees to maneuver the store, although most were very familiar with Publix and its layout. There was also much more freedom, as at Office Depot they had a list of things they could purchase, where as in Publix, they had the liberty to choose their favorite entrées, drinks, and snacks, as long as the total stayed under $!5. Also, whereas all items in Office Depot are taxed, many items at Publix and other grocery stores are not taxable, as there is no tax on groceries. Because of this, the students had to figure out whether the lunch items they had selected for themselves were taxable or not to be able to factor the price of their items in and stay under their $!5 limit. The students once again had a great time, and had their delicious lunches at the end of the instruction.
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