On September 21st, the students of Cypress Bay’s Social Skills class, sponsored by HDS Foundation’s BRIDGES grant, had their first community based instruction. The students went to Office Depot with a mission. They were instructed to work in groups to purchase items from a list given to them, so that their total would not exceed $15 including tax. Their goal was to purchase as many of the items on the list without going over their limit. Students bought things such as three-ringed binders, paper clips, scissors, clip boards, and gift cards. This lesson taught the students many things. Firstly, they had to work collaboratively to decide which items to purchase and find them in the store. They had to problem solve, finding the best items to purchase so that they could buy as many as possible and still stay under $15. Importantly, they had to understand how to include tax, so that their final total would not exceed $!5, even after the tax was added to their order. The students enlisted the help of store employees, helping them with maneuvering the store and improving their social skills, especially when speaking to new people. This instruction proved to be a great way to get the students into their community and learning practical skills that are otherwise not taught in schools. It was a great day for everyone involved, and the students had a great time.
Over the course of this summer, the HDS Foundation has had two interns on board – Hope Sotolongo-Miranda and Benny Elfont. Hope and Benny have been incredibly helpful in their work at the HDS Foundation.
Hope has been successful in putting together a binder full of information on post-secondary options for graduating high school students with disabilities. She focused primarily on degree and certificate programs that would be available to students with disabilities, especially Autism Spectrum Disorder, in the South Florida area. Hope thoroughly researched these schools and the important information parents would need to know, such as accommodations provided, cost of attendance and services, transportation, and contact information. She even visited one of the schools she researched to gain more knowledge of the program and to start building a relationship with the school’s program. In addition, Hope researched a multitude of general scholarships for students with disabilities and created a document where they can all be seen. All of this information can now be found in one compact binder, making it easier and more convenient for parents and students to learn about their options. Hope has also aided in developing the HDS Foundation’s social media presence by updating the Facebook page with new pictures, events, or blogs.
Benny has also been successful, having developed the HDS Foundation’s online presence through the writing, editing, and posting of numerous blogs on the HDS Foundation’s website. The HDS Foundation has so many events occurring constantly, and Benny’s work on the blog has been instrumental in getting the word out about these wonderful and impactful events. With each blog post, he adds on pictures of the event, so that readers can really get a glimpse of what the Foundation does and what it’s really all about: helping those with Autism Spectrum Disorder in developing a future that they will be happy with and proud of. Without these blog posts, the HDS Foundation would not be as known as we are today, and the people in the ASD community would not know the amazing opportunities available to them through the Foundation. Benny will be with the company until August 25th, continuing to write these essential blog posts.
As the summer is coming to an end, today HDS and the HDS Foundation will be celebrating these interns and their work over the last few months. Thank you, interns!
Cypress Bay High School’s class of 2016 officially graduated on June 5at the University of Miami’s BankUnited Center. With a class of 1,100+ and a stunning graduation rate of 95%, it is no surprise that the social skills class seniors all received diplomas; some were even sporting honors cords around their necks. Cypress Bay High School is one of the highest-ranked public high schools in the nation. With incomparably qualified teachers and a zealous principal, the infamous Scott Neely, Cypress Bay promotes advanced yet nurtured development for any and all students, giving anyone the chance to prosper. An abundance of resources and generous sponsors provides for all the school’s events and activities, which furthers student progress. The HDS Foundation expresses immense gratitude to the school for supporting all its strides with this year’s first BRIDGES class.
The day was unquestionably emotional for BRIDGES’ parents and mentors alike. Graduating high school meant far more to Social Skills affiliates than getting good grades. Students with developmental disabilities not only have to worry about grades, but also have to consider their conduct, interactions with teachers and peers, and emotional well-being on a daily basis. Our BRIDGES students indubitably tackled these feats with determination and grace, and their success is undeniable. They confronted each challenge head-on despite their qualms and are leaving us as resilient, positive individuals. We only hope that their futures continue to reveal to them that they can achieve whatever they set their minds to. HDS Foundation is so proud of these young men and women and will miss them dearly.
As we say farewell to our graduates, we are excited for the new school year to come. Our second year running the BRIDGES class is only looking to be bigger and better, with many more graduates to tearfully bid goodbye at its end. Here’s to a wonderful summer break for our students.
The night of May 28th, 2016, is one Cypress Bay High School’s BRIDGES’ graduating class will not soon forget. The whole gang suited up in their finest attire to attend their senior prom. After a pre-prom party of refreshments and picture-taking at Foundation President Cristina’s home, the Social Skills class, along with peer escorts Suzie, Benny, and Nick, climbed into a stretch limo and headed toward the venue. Upon arrival, the crew found themselves among 1,000+ Cypress Bay students, all eager to dance the night away (our ever-jubilant Sara didn’t leave the dance floor once). The prom’s theme, Night Lite, proved nothing short of suitable; the sea of students shone wearing satin and beaming smiles. With complimentary food and beverages, plus a DJ spinning the hottest tunes, our peer escorts found rounding the class up to go home to be quite humorously challenging.
Going into the night, the students seemed nervous yet excited to join their massive senior class. The Social Skills class spent the whole school year developing and fine-tuning social skills, and prom was the perfect arena to put them into practice. The students flourished whilst interacting with their peers and broke out of their shells to bust some moves.
For most seniors, prom marks the night to finally forget all of the hormonal horrors, not to mention homework, of high school. But, for our Bridges seniors, prom served as a celebration of all this past year’s accomplishments and forged friendships and as a send-off to their immeasurably bright futures. With many of our graduating Social Skills students venturing onto continuing higher education programs, the HDS Foundation could not be prouder of the amazing young adults these students have become. This joyous commemoration was beyond well-deserved. HDS Foundation would like to thank all those involved who helped make this unforgettable prom night possible.
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.
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