Life Lessons for Teachers and Their Students

By Nicole Terzakis, Director of Social Services at The Arc of Atlantic County

For the past three years, Dr. Shelly Meyers has been teaching a Stockton College Graduate level Special Education class at The Arc for teachers in school for their Masters in Special Education. She lectures for the first half, and in the second half the student teachers work with Arc clients on academic and functional life skills that are important to the individual.  This program is so valuable for the students and for the people we support because they’re getting 1:1 and sometimes 2:1 assistance with learning how to cook, build social skills and develop math, reading and writing skills using iPads.

The Spring 2012 semester’s class was called “Survey of Moderate to Severe Developmental Disabilities”. The student teachers didn’t really know what to expect when they walked in the door. Only a few of them had worked with Arc clients before. For the others, their only experience with someone with a disability was the children with learning disabilities in their regular education classes. At the end of the semester, students shared their comments with The Arc about how meaningful this experience was for them.  Here are some of their comments:

Frank learns to cook with help from a student teacher.

“I think The Arc lessons are extremely important in understanding moderate disabilities and need to be a part of the course. I can’t imagine learning about this kind of experience I am having through a textbook or lecture. I think the best way to facilitate our class and future classes is to keep The Arc part of the course.”

“The past few weeks have not only been very emotional and entertaining, but also educational. The first thing that I have learned is raising a child with a disability is very demanding and stressful. Parents of children with disabilities are in need of support for their wellness; however, services are often unavailable due to lack of funding or if parents don’t know their own rights. This is where teachers need to step up to the plate to be the parent’s best advocate.”

“Estelle had an amazing time using the iPad. She was laughing and smiling so much that

Estelle helps prepare a meal. Thanks to this course, she has built confidence in the kitchen and shares her new skills and meals with her housemates.

I couldn’t help laughing with her at her loving nature and excitement for something so many of us take for granted; the simple skills of spelling a word, doing a puzzle or simple motor skills to use the iPad.”

These are just a few. The clients look forward to coming each week. We are done for the summer and they are bummed about that. But starting again in the fall, the students will be back on Monday nights. This class is open to anyone who receives services from The Arc – adults or children. Individuals must find their own transportation to The Arc office and everyone eats a healthy dinner that they have prepared while there.  For more details, please contact Nicole Terzakis at 609-485-0800 x 201 or nterzakis@arcatlantic.org.

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Featuring the Photography of Robert Cheeseman

There is a certain sense of comfort that comes from being behind a camera at a social event, especially for those of us who are on the shy side. Although photography is certainly an outlet for creativity, it can also provide a seamless escape from those uncomfortable situations we sometimes find ourselves in when attending social events.

Arc Supportive Living client Robert Cheeseman, who once was reluctant to participate in Arc activities because of his shyness, has found his comfort zone in his role as the unofficial photographer for many of the activities happening at The Arc. Robert has photographed the Special Olympics basketball finals, the Supportive Living Program’s progressive dinner, a trip to the park, and most recently the Arc Artists’ exhibit at the Ocean City Flower Show this past weekend held in conjunction with the Ocean City Fine Arts League.

Enjoy Robert’s Flickr album and let us know what you think in the comments!

Story Time: Celebrating Recent Successes of People We Serve

On the second Tuesday of every month, we host a staff meeting for about 60 Arc employees. Every meeting begins with staff sharing some of the past month’s inspiring stories and successes achieved by people in our services.  We want to share these stories with you, because you too make all these great things possible! If you have any questions or would like more information about a particular story, please contact The Arc’s Communications Associate Beth Ann Spiegel at 609-485-0800 ext. 136 or bspiegel@arcatlantic.org.

  1. Athletes from our new Track and Field team had their first Special Olympics

    Jackie with The Arc’s Track & Field Team sign

    competition on April 29.  The seven athletes took home six gold medals and three were first time recreation participants! They competed in wheelchair obstacle races,  25m and 100m wheelchair dashes, and 25m assisted walks, among others.  One woman who won a gold medal used to be very shy and not very motivated, but recreation has really helped her come out of her shell. She couldn’t have been more proud to be there with her aunt and uncle to help celebrate her gold medal!

  2. A new resident moved to an Arc group home in January and with help from her staff and a healthier diet, she’s no longer needs most of the meds she arrived with and has lost 15lbs!
  3. Residents and staff at our new Galloway group homes planted a garden in their backyard filled with birdhouses and perennials – a suggestion by one of the residents! She felt their backyard was too plain and inspired the whole group to spruce up their outdoor space.
  4. Residents from our Pacific apartments went to NYC to see Mary Poppins on Broadway thanks to some deal-seeking staff who got tickets at a bargain. They had a wonderful time!
  5. The District 5 Self Advocacy Group of NJ, which is composed of residents from The Arc of Atlantic County and four other surrounding counties, hosted a Rock N’ Bowl fundraiser at King Pin Lanes in Egg Harbor Township May 4th. More than 90 people from Atlantic and Cape May Counties turned out for the event, which raised over $400 to help their cause. Staff pointed out that King Pin was so accommodating and welcoming and deserved a big thanks.
  6. A new resident moved into one of our Galloway Group Homes from a developmental center, and without any encouragement another resident took it upon herself to comfort the new roommate and help her adjust to her new home. She told her, “I was scared when I first came here too, but it will be alright. Everyone is so nice!”
  7. A resident at one of our group homes had his Individual Habilitation Plan meeting recently, which his sister and niece attended for the first time. During the discussion, the sister shared their family background. The family separated a very long time ago, and some of the children were placed in different locations throughout the state and never saw each other again.  As it turned out, the resident we support had three other brothers, one of whom is still alive. The last name was very unique, and the DDD case manager who was also attending recognized the name and knew exactly where the brother could be found! The sister and brother were so thrilled – they’ve been looking for him for years. They’re planning a meeting in the next few months!

All of these stories, and so many more, are made possible thanks to our dedicated team of 250 employees, as well as the generous support of our friends in the community. We can’t thank you enough!

A Sailor’s Life for Me

By Jessica Servis, Executive Director of Just-Sailing

At first, Diamond was not at all interested in going on the water, but by the end of the day she was sailing and loving it!

Ten kids and three staff members from The Arc’s Saturday Program enjoyed an amazing afternoon of maritime education at Just-Sailing last Saturday. The group arrived just before lunch eager to get on the water and learn something new. Safety first, upon arrival everyone was properly fitted with life jackets to provide safety on the boats, dock and beach area. The group now looked official.

Next, we toured the facility showing the kids different types of boats and how they are powered. The kids sat in the canoe and pretended to paddle. They checked out the safety boat, a motorboat used for safety patrol on the water, and listened to the sound of the motor. We walked down the beach to discuss the parts of a sailboat. The Just-Sailing volunteers had rigged and beached two Designer’s Choice sailboats to demonstrate the how the sails move in the wind, the parts of the boat, and how we steer. The kids can see and touch all the boats and sails.

After lunch, everyone had a chance to build their own boat with the help of our volunteers and float it in the test tank. This is a great way to get kids involved in a creative way. They made their sailboats and then tested them in the water.

While some kids made boats, it was time for others to go sailing. For the next two hours all the kids enjoyed sailing around the lake. They all had a chance to steer the boat and trim the sails. Everyone loves to drive, or in sailing terms skipper the boat. It makes you feel empowered and builds self confidence while enjoying time outside. When we sail, we try to teach the kids about the seasons, the animals that live by the lake, and the weather. They love to feel the wind on their faces as we sail around.

About a year ago as we began to build what is now Just-Sailing, Troy and I had the opportunity to volunteer at the Downtown Sailing Center in Baltimore. Acting as coaches in their Accessible Sailing Program for kids and adults with special needs we experienced first hand the joy on the faces of their sailors. Saturday, a year later we couldn’t be happier to see a program like this in our local community.

Thank you to all of the kids, parents, and staff at The Arc for making Saturday possible. We have all been working hard to get the kids on the water for the past few months. People like you make things possible.

Just-Sailing is a non profit organization composed of three major programs: accessible sailing, maritime education, and marine science. The proceeds from our programs and activities help support Accessible Sailing along with the donations and sponsors from our supporters. Thanks to AtlantiCare, West Marine, and Walmart for your support.

Just-Sailing is an education driven volunteer based organization that integrates the freedom of sailing and the power of marine education. We are committed to providing hands on learning opportunities that foster personal independence and a sense of community to the people of southern New Jersey, especially children with special needs, their friends and families, at risk youth, seniors, and people with disabilities.  For more information, please visit www.just-sailing.org, like Just-Sailing on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter.  Please also feel free to contact me at 609-214-5176 or by email at jessica@just-sailing.org.

Learn About our Chief Officers on International Women’s Day!

International Women’s Day happens every year on March 8 all around the globe. It’s a time to reflect on the struggles women have faced throughout history and to celebrate the achievements they’ve made.  It’s also a time to renew awareness of the inequalities that many women still face.

Here at The Arc, we are proud to be lead by four strong chief officers – who just happen to also be women. Take a moment to learn more about Debbie Davies, Pat Jones, Jill Lemon and Debbie Jewell by reading their bios, which you can find here.

In honor of International Women’s Day, we celebrate their leadership and vision, and the incredible work they’ve done and continue to do on behalf of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in our community.

Dancing Queen Michelle Guerro Wins Competition at Night Fever Dance Club

By Nicole Terzakis, Social Services Director

Michelle Guerro is a natural performer, and if you’ve been to any of our Spotlight Players Club’s performing arts shows, you probably remember her.  In May 2011 in The Arc Goes Hollywood, Michelle performed Marilyn Monroe’s “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend”, complete with a feather boa that she used to taunt her suitors.  In 2008, she was Black-eyed Susan in the play, “Magic in Me”.  In fact, Michelle has been in every performance since the club was founded in 2007!

Michelle had a chance to show off her skills in a different venue last Friday night when a group of Arc staff and service recipients went to the Night Fever Dance Club at Resorts in Atlantic City, a 1970s/80s club, to celebrate Michelle’s birthday.

That night there happened to be a dance contest and all of the service recipients who attended competed. The winner was decided by who received the most applause.  There was no doubt that night that our very own Michelle was the big winner! She was the belle of the ball and everyone in the club cheered and yelled and clapped for her. She was so excited. There were other people who entered the contest who did not have disabilities who were pretty good, but as you can see from the photos, Michelle just jumped out there and pulled out every move she has.

I must say that every time that I go there with people we support, no one treats them any differently.  It is so important to the individuals that we support that get to be just like everyone else and Night Fever seems to make that happen. People want to be a part of the community and participate in activities outside of The Arc. It helps to build self esteem and self confidence in the people that we support.

The rest of the Arc group did a fabulous job and certainly gave Michelle a run for her money, but since she was the big winner AND the birthday girl, this post is all about Michelle. Way to go, girl!!

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