The Arcadia Institute

Making it possible for people with disabilities to be welcomed, supported and respected in their community

Volunteering Spotlight: Kristy

Last summer I met Kristy and spent time getting to know her. We talked about her goals for the future. Kristy wants to move into an apartment with a roommate. She enjoys spending time with her friends and watching wrestling. Kristy would like to get a job. Working in an office appeals to her, as does news reporting. She is a big fan of Channel 3 news.

After learning more about Kristy, we worked together to find places in the community where she could get more involved based on her interests. Last fall, Kristy started volunteering for two different organizations. One day a week she goes to the Greater Kalamazoo Girls on the Run office. Another day each week, she goes to the Girl Scouts Heart of Michigan office to volunteer. I recently sat down with Kristy and asked her about her volunteer experiences.

When I asked Kristy how her friends would describe her, she said they would say she is independent. “I can do stuff on my own.” She said her favorite part about volunteering is the people that she works with in the two organizations. She enjoys the works she does, too, such as filing, sorting, and labeling envelopes. “I feel good about it,” Kristy shared with me.

I asked her if she thinks her volunteering experiences will be helpful to her as she looks for paid employment. She believes that her experience using Metro County Connect to go into the community will make it easier for her when she has a job. Kristy occasionally used Metro County Connect before she started volunteering, but over the last nine months, she has taken on the responsibility of scheduling her own rides and making sure she is in the right place at the right time to meet the Metro van every week.

As Kristy is applying for jobs and going for interviews, she will be able to draw on her volunteer experiences as evidence of her strengths and skills. Not only will she be able to tell about the work she has been doing, but she will have strong references from the community who will be able to speak directly to the skills she has to offer an employer. She has expanded her community circles, learned new skills and increased her confidence. Kristy feels good about what she is doing right now, and looks forward to the opportunities that are in her future.

Youth Progress

The blog this week was written by Dalanna Hoskins, a Community Broker at The Arcadia Institute.

Working with youth has been complicated and rewarding at the same time. One of the youth I have worked with in particular has grown leaps and bounds during the 8 month period we have worked together. For the sake of confidentiality her name shall be Sally Excellent.

Since working with Sally, we have been able to connect her with the Kalamazoo Drop-In Child Care Center where she volunteers on a regular basis on Friday afternoons. Through the Disability Network Southwest Michigan we have started travel training with Ms. Leona Carter. This training has provided a closer step toward independence for Sally. She will be able to get home from her volunteer site on her own and possibly anywhere else in the Kalamazoo area in the near future.

We did a MAP (Making Action Plan) with her in April, and it was a great success. Through this we were able to bring her family and those close to her together, and come to common ground in planning for her future. The outcome was the ability to get more volunteer opportunities at a family friends’ daycare, travel training, and even getting more information on how to help her succeed in school.

This is only the beginning stage of the process for Sally and her family. I feel that she will continue to succeed and develop more into a mature young woman. She will be more than capable to accomplish most, if not, all of her short term goals for this year and the upcoming year.

Sally is only one of eight students that I work with on a one on one basis, and each them are showing progress in their own way. It has been great working with Joellen Heldt from Family & Children Services, Leona Carter from the Disability Network Southwest Michigan, and Beth Walters from the Kalamazoo Drop-In Child Care Center. These ladies have made the process for Sally run smoothly and with much help and support. I say THANK YOU! to these women who are part of these organizations, and made it possible for Sally to be one step closer to her goals and dreams.

It is a blessing to be part of a great organization such as Arcadia Institute who allows a person like myself, to help others find a pathway to success, independence, and progression. As well as working with other organizations with the same mindset and vision for our youth and adults that we work with.

Kzoo Kids: A Great Resource for Families

The blog this week was written by Michele Momotiuk, Administrative Assistant at The Arcadia Institute.

One of The Arcadia Institute board members, Jill Piwko, has a great website we wanted to tell you about. Kzoo Kids, is a great place to learn about family activities in the greater Kalamazoo area. With everything from a summer berry picking guide to a cheap summer movie guide; summer camp, preschool, and birthday party guides; Kzoo Kids has it all. There is even an event calendar so you can find things to do any day of the week. They also do give-aways to win tickets or prizes. Check it out and let us know what you think.

The Future: A Theme from the 6th Annual Building a Community of Belonging Forum

“We are replacing ourselves”

Jessica Mancino, Program Director at the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Kalamazoo

As I reviewed the video footage captured by Deborah Warfield, Founder of Media Arts Academy, several times people talked about the fact that by including people with disabilities throughout the community, particularly in youth serving organizations, we are impacting our future . Here are several comments form Forum Attendees that illustrate this idea:

Tinashe Chaponda, WMU Student and Founder of FOCUS Kalamazoo Volunteers

* He learned that everyone belongs everywhere instead of creating separate programs – include people with disabilities in programs that exist

* Someday Tinashe plans to have his own Human Resources Firm. The Forum changed how he views employment for people with disabilities.

* It’s our job to be prepared for the future

Justin, Community Member

* When we work together we can make a change in the community so that people are not mistreated

* We need to all get along to make the community safer

Matt, Boys and Girls Club of Greater Kalamazoo

* He knows that by the Boys and Girls Club being inclusive there has long term impact with the youth served. They will be different as adults and spread the work.

* Important to understand that it is not always easy because of past practices of pushing people with disabilities aside – inclusion goes against the ideas of how we’ve always done it.

Jessica Mancino, Boys and Girls Club of Greater Kalamazoo

* At the Boys and Girls Club, they see themselves replacing themselves with the youth and empowering them to be leaders at the Club.

* Youth understand the importance of diversity at the Club and in the community when they are adults.

“We are planting the seeds of trees whose shade we may never sit in.”

Originated from a Greek Proverb

Broadening my perspective…

The blog this week was written by Jill Angell, Executive Director of Parent to Parent of SW MI.

From the moment I stepped foot into the Boys & Girls Clubs, I knew what my goals were going to be for the Club. My goal was simple; make sure every kid that walked through the doors felt included, special, and left with a positive childhood memory. It probably helped that I already had built a relationship with George Martin, and some idea what inclusion was all about.

My journey at the Club began in trying to change each activity and program to fit the needs for each child, and I soon realized that it was overwhelming and very difficult. I felt like I was failing more than I was succeeding at making the Club an inclusive environment. After several conversations with Allison Hammond, and talking honestly with other directors, we decided to take a different approach, change the whole environment. Provide universal supports for the kids at each unit. We started with the program board; it was a big white board that had pictures and words, to list the day’s activities. We use pictures to accommodate kids’ reading skills, hearing abilities, and give them an idea of what the schedule was. We put up red and green lights to display when activity area was open and closed. We gave each age group two to three activities to choose from each hour. We provide timers for pool tables, and some pool tables were reserved to serious players. We developed behavior expectations we wanted to see in each program area. This began our philosophy, if there was an issue with a child, we would brainstorm, how to incorporate that into a universal support in the Club’s daily routine.

I had to broaden my perspective when I became the Executive Director of Parent to Parent of SW MI. I learned from the parents we serve that there is a bigger picture, and belonging is about the whole family and being part of the community. I’ve noticed that when the community is not inclusive, and understanding of all of its members’ needs, it results in families being isolated. I had to learn that our parents are the experts in their child’s life, and that I have to work with our parent support partners to help parents find their voice to educate the community about their family’s needs. My view is wider now; it is about being part of a community. I no longer live in my little bubble at the Club; I have to think bigger, so my question now is how do we draw awareness to everyone in our community’s needs and help them to belong?