- Written by Rebecca Shurtleff
The History and Current Offerings of Adult Education at Wildwood
The Adult Education program at Wildwood offers a wide range of educational and career-based support for people with disabilities. For over two decades, Wildwood has committed to providing this unique service and working with individuals and community partners throughout the Capital Region to provide learning opportunities in literacy, work-related, financial, interpersonal, and wellness skills in order for adults with disabilities to gain greater self-satisfaction and an enhanced quality of life.
A generous donation from Elizabeth H. Rally helped Adult Education get its start at Wildwood in 1999. Since its inception, Adult Ed has focused on two components: The Academy for Lifelong Learning (Adult Education), and Farming and Outdoor Projects. The Adult Education curriculum works alongside all other programs at Wildwood to build upon and enhance individuals’ skills and knowledge so that they are better equipped to participate in an ever-changing world.
Over 40 courses are divided into Fall and Spring Semesters. Approximately 120 students participate in at least one course offering per year. Students have the opportunity to select the courses they are interested in, and provide their own input in the creation of new ones. All courses fall into five categories: Visual and Performing Arts; Physical Well-Being; Mental Well-Being; Emotional Well-Being; and Financial Well-Being – popular offerings include choir, cooking, self-defense, health advocacy, high school equivalency, computer skills, transition support, and budgeting, among others.
Students who participate in Adult Education often have a wide range of disabilities, diagnosed or not. These can include complex learning disabilities, mental health conditions, and intellectual and developmental disabilities. Compared to other programs at Wildwood, Adult Education is not funded by the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) Medicaid Waiver or the New York State Education Department (NYSED). Approximately 50% of the students that attend classes do not qualify for any of the typical financial supports and services. Wildwood has been able to sustain Adult Education for its entire duration thanks to donations, scholarships, private pay, Wildwood Foundation supports, CSEA Tuition Vouchers, and grants.
Adult Education at Wildwood continues to expand and grow. Capital Region collegiate interns and community volunteers help provide new course offerings; support staff and family members have been welcomed to participate in classes alongside registered students. The new, virtual class format that will be offered in Fall 2020 will open up accessibility and course availability to those who may have transportation or time conflicts, while still providing individualized support and in addition to adhering to the pandemic-imposed social distancing regulations.
The classes offered by Adult Education have played an important role in helping foster independence, friendships, and personal development. For over 20 years, individuals have received education and support through major life events, such as home-buying, debt reduction, and career advancement. Through the wide range of community funding and outside support, as well as the ongoing dedication of staff and participants, Adult Education at Wildwood has withstood the tests of time to remain an important, innovative opportunity for all involved.
If you are interested in learning more or have questions about the Adult Education program, please contact Melinda Burns at firstname.lastname@example.org. The Fall Semester course brochure is now available. Registration forms are due by September 10. If you would like to sign up for a course and/or see which courses are available, please fill out the following form: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSdpLrmefBVOssufHml9NcK2EPmf7TY7cSxDUuLQBOhGCQ5udw/viewform
- Written by Rebecca Shurtleff
July 17, 2020
On July 10th, OPWDD released interim guidelines authorizing providers like Wildwood to begin providing Day Services at their sites beginning July 15th. This was an important step in restoring our ability to provide people the supports they so desperately need and we are working tirelessly to interpret and come into compliance with the complex, 10-page guidance document that was issued Friday night. There are several points we want to highlight with you as we work towards this next phase:
- Agencies across the state were caught completely off guard by this announcement from OPWDD. Right up to July 10th, guidance had been that this may happen in late August/early September and Wildwood and others were actively engaged in workgroups developing what Day services could look like in this “new world”. Given this sudden change by OPWDD, we ask for your continued patience while we work to drastically speed up this timeframe and comply with all of the regulations given to us. In fact, OPWDD just issued updated guidance late yesterday with changes to their original guidance just a week ago, so this is a rapidly changing process.
- COVID-19 remains a very real presence and risk in our communities. Therefore, please know that all of our planning is centered around safety of all stakeholders and striking a balance of safety with the very real need for people to receive the supports they need. As we move forward, everything we put into place may need to change and evolve based on the current numbers of cases in our communities.
- We are going to need you as our continued partners throughout this process. Our ability to minimize risks of infection, and therefore keep our sites open, will rely in large part on open dialogue between us in terms of any possible exposures. It will also be critical for all of us to avoid high risk behaviors when not in program (unnecessary travel, especially to hot spots and avoiding large gatherings, etc.). This will be key.
- In addition, New York State and OPWDD have removed the special funding they had put into place for providers over the last 4 months to help offset the losses in revenue from having to downscale our supports. Because of this significant change, it is imperative that everyone we support continue to engage in the activities offered to the extent they are able. Please share your thoughts and ideas as to how we can continue to adapt our offerings to encourage the maximum levels of engagement from those we support.
- We will continue to offer virtual and community-based services in addition to the site-based options so that there are multiple ways for people to be supported, depending on their preferences and ability to conform to the requirements to wear masks and social distance at sites. We will be exploring these options with you over the coming weeks as we continue our planning. This exploration will initially include your ability to transport your loved one due to capacity restrictions being put on providers within vans and buses.
We do not yet have an “opening date” identified but will continue to communicate regularly over the coming days. We have made a lot of progress since last Friday’s surprise announcement and anticipate being able to have a complete plan for reopening our sites, including a start date, very soon. When we have that more comprehensive plan, we will share that out so that you have all of the information you need to work with us on the best ways to support your loved one. Thank you for understanding our need to get this right, and we are always available to discuss any questions and concerns you may have.
Strategic Director of Vocational, Day & Community Supports
Director of Day Services
- Written by Rebecca Shurtleff
Original article from WNYT News Channel 13:
Families of people with disabilities in group homes and day habilitation programs are calling on the state to allow visitation and programming to resume as other businesses and school programs have been given the green light.
It's a story NewsChannel 13 has been covering.
Several lawmakers and families joined in a virtual conference on Monday, urging the governor to take action.
These families say enough is enough. They are tired of the standard response that they are working on it.
They feel the state has forgotten the disabled population and with each passing day, the damage being done continues to get worse.
The Zoom meeting was led by Assmblymember Melissa Miller of Nassau County. Joining in from our area was Assemblymember Mary Beth Walsh and Mary Ann Allen, who is the director of the Wildwood Programs in and around Schenectady. Both have adult children with developmental disabilities.
Last week, NewsChannel 13 met with a family in Ballston Spa who said their daughter has been regressing without the needed supports and routines her dayhab program offers.
At the time, NewsChannel 13 reached out to the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities and we were told they're working on the reopening vision for the programs and what visitation to group homes might look like.
A week later that same family said a call from OPWDD gave them the same response - we're working on it. Every person in the Zoom call said they've been told the same thing. Now they are demanding a better response, saying a timeline must be laid out, and they want to know some specifics.