Throughout the month of November, Wildwood's Executive Management team hosted several virtual "Town Halls" where families, staff, and community members could tune in to learn more about the current status of Wildwood and ask questions that would be answered by leadership. If you missed them or were unable to attend, a video that recaps the meetings has been shared to our YouTube page! Find a compilation that covers all the topics and questions asked here: 

Contributed by Maggie Pascucci

As the world faces the uncertainties and challenges brought forth by a global pandemic this year, we yearn for the comfort and camaraderie often found in holiday celebrations. While each person, each family, each community defines what holiday traditions mean for them, the celebrations of 2020 and 2021 will likely look and feel different for most of us.

With this comes the question: how can we mark the occasion of holidays and maintain their warm feelings while practicing measures that keep us and our loved ones safe?

Creativity will be key. If our traditional celebrations are unable to happen, we can consider alternatives that pose lower risk of spreading or becoming infected with COVID-19. Most of us have become regular users of online meetings, and platforms that can support a virtual gathering. These platforms could be used to share a holiday meal at a planned day and time.

Perhaps we can decide on an activity or ritual that all family members engage in, and later share the experience with a brief photo or video during a group chat. Sharing special food is a universal holiday experience; sending recipes to family or friends ahead of time, or hosting an online cooking demonstration of a favorite holiday dish, may be a way to share experiences with a group. Providing a meal or sending a care package to a loved one or neighbor that can be delivered outside a door may not be the way we envisioned sharing a holiday meal, but it is a gesture filled with love.

As we begin the holiday season, consider discussing plans early with the people who are your usual holiday companions. We each have a sense of what feels comfortable and safe for us and the members of our household, and wider families and communities may have differing views on how to celebrate. While disappointments may occur when people aren’t on the same page, at least no one will be caught off guard, and plans can be made to ensure everyone stays safe, within their comfort levels, and as happy as possible considering the circumstances.

However different our celebrations this year may be, one thing that hasn’t changed is the meaning behind them; there is still the opportunity to connect with others and share joy. Perhaps our creative solutions to mark the day as “special” and unlike any others will lead to new traditions to include in our holiday celebrations in the years to come. 

By Melinda Burns, Director of Adult Education

When the coronavirus hit in March, Hudson Valley Community College (HVCC) cancelled all in-person internships at community-based sites for the rest of the semester. Sadly, Anny Jennifer Flores-Farias (“Jennifer”), a human services major at HVCC, had to end her internship with the Adult Education program at Wildwood.

Fast forward to July: Jennifer reached out to see if Wildwood’s Adult Education would accept an intern for the fall semester. While most other programs would not accept interns, Wildwood and HVCC agreed to pilot a “virtual internship.” The logistics, schedule, and parameters were set so that Jennifer could complete the internship in an online-based environment and get credit for 168 internship hours by December. 

By Rebecca Shurtleff, with contributions from Melissa Stewart, Christine Jacobia, Lori Cuda,
Sue Carr, Joan Reilly, Kim Lesson, Chris Blizinski, Bridget Chiaramonte, and Jennifer DeCosmo

Throughout October, Wildwood participated in National Disability in Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM). NDEAM is an annual event that recognizes diversity and inclusion in the workplace. While the month-long event is important in raising awareness, finding jobs for people with disabilities is not something that happens only one month out of the year. Wildwood’s employment team is dedicated to connecting jobseekers with positions at area businesses; they also push businesses to shift their perspectives on what it means to hire someone with a disability. What’s it like to be a part of this team? Wildwood Employment Specialists and staff from the Work Readiness Program share their perspectives…

By Michelle A. Brown

Wildwood has always been committed to supporting students by maximizing opportunities for personal learning, growth, and development. In the summer of 2020, Wildwood received a grant from The Daniel and Susan Pfau Foundation to create a self-advocacy curriculum for students, ages 14-21 years old. Michelle Brown, Coordinator of Integration & Advocacy, and Melinda Burns, Director of Adult Education, have been collaborating with Wildwood School social workers and teachers in this venture to develop and implement the project.

By enhancing existing skills, the curriculum will assist students in understanding what advocacy is, how to use advocacy skills, and in empowering students to embrace the nuances of advocacy. Students can then apply these skills to help develop their Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) and their Life Plans in the future. 

Advocacy is not a concept or thought process for a particular time of life. Instead, it is on a continuum. We use these skills throughout every stage of our lives. Advocacy assists us to develop the life we want to live; to know and express what we like and what we don’t like. Through the self-advocacy curriculum, students will learn to explore and ask questions such as:

  • What do I want to do with my spare time?
  • Where do I want to work?
  • Where do I want to live?
  • With whom do I want to do these things?

By supporting students as they think about and advocate in regard to these life questions, they can live a life that they envision.


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