submitted by Kath Pengelly, staffing and recruiting coordinator, Lifeworks Human Resources
On a warm day in early August, Theresa Kuhn, a teacher from the Apple Valley High School called to inquire about a community service opportunity for students in the AVID program at her school. We discussed options for a service event that could engage up to 20 students and settled on a holiday party at Lifeworks Burnsville on December 4, 2009.
I was curious to learn more about this AVID program and emailed Theresa back and forth over the remaining summer weeks and learned that AVID stands for Advancement Via Individual Determination. It is a program for students who are in the academic middle. AVID places them in courses that help them become competitive and offer them greater choices for college.
At its core, AVID operates on the Socratic Method. Socrates, an ancient Greek philosopher and teacher, believed that enabling students to think for themselves was more important than simply providing them with the correct answers. After reading more I wondered who I would meet the day of the party.
Lifeworks Burnsville Program Manager Lori Schluttenhofer and her team leads, Derek, Teckla, and Lori helped plan a holiday party that had a variety of activities either stationed in a particular spot at the Center or could travel on a cart room-to-room. Students were assigned in groups of two to the activities with instructions of what to do.
Prior to the start of the party we met with the students and talked about dignity and respect for people with disabilities and that the expectation of the party was fun. I asked the group if they had worked with people with disabilities before and everyone indicated this would be their first time. Our clients had no disappointments at the end of the day. Each student accepted their assignment with genuine sincerity and it was hard to believe that they had not done this before.
I asked one student what they learned during the time spent with us and she said, “We are all just people, this was fun.” As they were leaving to go back to the school two students asked if they could start a pen pal program with the Lifeworks Burnsville clients and I said, “Sure, contact me about that.” Before the day was over there was an e-mail for me requesting a planning meeting at the Apple Valley High School to discuss how this new partnership can continue.
Lori and I have already had one meeting to discuss the pen pal program and we hope to have it launched the week of January 11, 2010.
I was so proud of our Lifeworks Burnsville staff the day of the party; yes we provided a great day for our clients, but we also helped to educate 20 new advocates for people with disabilities. You never know what opportunity awaits you when the phone rings. Thank you Theresa Kuhn for calling Lifeworks.