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Art is important to us all. Many people with disabilities have difficulty using words to communicate feelings and emotions. Art is a means of expression and freedom. While some artists can express themselves verbally, they also choose to express themselves through their artwork. With great enthusiasm, Wildwood and the Albany Barn were able to continue our tradition of the Art Showcase on Tuesday, May 24, 2022. In a display which can only be called an eruption of color and creativity, artists from Wildwood and Albany Barn proudly exhibited their works of art together.
Some of the Wildwood student artists painted bright rainbows. They lit the walls with stimulating hues. We tend to picture a rainbow in standard arching form; red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple. Each rainbow was unique, with its own colors, order and shape, demonstrating the importance of looking at the world through the artist’s eyes.
Adult artists who represented Wildwood used a variety of techniques. Diverse mediums ranging from canvas to quilting, watercolor, oil, acrylic and wood were present. Some pieces were abstract while others had a realistic representation of an animal or nature scene.
It was fascinating to see the creative interpretation of pieces from Albany Barn artists. Using a Wildwood artist’s art as inspiration, they took an idea or image and, with their own imagination, created a unique representation of the original piece.
To be known as an artist is status enhancing. Approximately two million people in the U.S. define themselves as professional artists. Many participants in our showcase have worked hard to attain this title, too. They have won awards for their work and have displayed pieces in numerous shows.
Wildwood artists continue to join the Art Showcase. Albany Barn artists return to collaborate with new people and take part in the show. Our bond grows stronger each year. We look forward to our next Art Showcase celebration with great anticipation. We hope you’ll join us!
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The 2022 Young Adult Program graduation was held on June 23rd at the Italian American Community Center. It was the first in-person and inside ceremony since the pandemic began. Sixteen graduates received their diplomas and celebrated what had been a challenging few years.
"A global pandemic couldn't slow down the growth and progress our 2022 grads gained,” Briana Macaione, YAP Teacher, says. “They knew it was theirs for the taking and with the dedication of their team, They did it!”
This group of students from YAP completed their YAP studies throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. That meant periods of virtual learning with no in-person interaction, it meant learning in uncomfortable masks, it meant quarantines and, in some cases, it meant dealing with sickness while trying to be successful at school.
If nothing else this experience taught them how to deal with adversity. There’s no doubt it took a team effort to make it through.
“I am so proud of each and every person involved with graduation; students, staff, and family. None of us could have gotten through the past few years without the support of each other,” Nancy Crane, YAP Teacher, says.
In many ways, the pandemic fostered its own lessons. Students learned to deal with changing structure, unpredictability, discomfort and isolation. Though all of those lessons might not find their way into a traditional curriculum, they will be lessons that will help them as they head into their next stage.
“I am wildly proud of them and hope everyone they meet gets to experience the fruits of their hard work as they move into adult life,” Briana Macaione says.
The entire school staff was part of the success story. They dealt with all of the changes and with a constant staff shortage. Adapting, being creative and constant teamwork made the difference. Education is never easy with children, adolescents and young adults but the circumstances of the last year made for extraordinary challenges. Suffice to say, that the challenges were met at Wildwood School.
“This year's Grad Class had a big impact on me. This is a group of young men and women who started in YAP three to four years ago, in person at Latham. Then COVID hit. Virtual learning became the new norm,” Nancy Crane says. “When we all got to come back to school in-person, it was like being at a family reunion. To culminate at graduation was incredible.”
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The New York State budget was passed…..in our favor! Due to successful advocacy efforts, our legislators included funding for essential Direct Support Professionals (DSPs). Families, service providers, DSPs and people who receive services spoke up- LOUDLY!
WE WERE HEARD!
We’ve been losing our DSPs to higher-paying jobs for years. We’ve struggled to entice people to seek employment in our field. These positive first steps the budget has promised are imperative to keeping and attracting quality staff, ensuring vital supports for people with disabilities are sustained. Included in the budget was a well-deserved 5.4% cost of living adjustment (COLA) and workforce bonuses for DSPs. A proposed 11% increase COLA for special education providers with certain caveats was approved. Continued advocacy will be necessary in this area.
Self advocates have stated they are very pleased with the budget. They are pleased their DSPs are being recognized for their dedication. People don’t want to lose continuity of services and support. More work is necessary. Some programs still cannot operate at full capacity due to lack of staffing.
How can you continue your advocacy efforts? The approved budget was for this year only. Continue to remind your Senators and Assembly members about the importance of adding COLA increases yearly. Call your Legislators several times each year. Request a meeting. Become that familiar face the Legislator recognizes and develop a personal relationship.
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Throughout the month of May, Wildwood employees were encouraged to participate in “Spring into Motion”, a walking challenge implemented by the HEAL committee. Each day, employees logged the total number of miles walked into a Google form. By the end of May, around 50 employees were registered and submitting their miles.
Awards such as grocery store gift cards and massage guns were given out to the top two walkers along with two randomly selected walkers. The importance of adding two randomly selected walkers was due to the fact that not everyone has the time or ability in their day to walk 20 miles, but even if you were able to walk 1 or 2, you still had a chance to be selected as a winner!
Individually, Patti O’Mara was crowned the 2022 “Spring into Motion” 1st place winner with 347 miles walked. That’s like walking from Wildwood all the way to Baltimore, Maryland!
Between all 50 walkers, the agency as a whole collectively walked over 3,800 miles!
"Spring into Motion" was a fun initiative to stay active while also getting into the competitive, yet fun-loving spirit.The HEAL committee hopes to turn "Spring into Motion" into a yearly competition!