Kim Kaczmarek, creator and retired coordinator of Sleepy Hollow Academy for Disability Education (“SHADE”), recalls the joyful connections made over Friday night pizzas and movies.
Ask any student in Project YOU at Sleepy Hollow High School what their favorite night of the week is, and for most it will be Friday. Why Friday?
It’s because that’s when the “Friday Dinner and a Movie” program takes place! The Friday night program is part of SHADE and brings together teens and young adults with special needs and their neurotypical peers to socialize together and just have fun! The participants meet at the Keeping It Real life skills apartment, cook dinner together, eat together and watch a favorite movie. This incredible program has been generously funded by Kids’ Club since its inception over ten years ago.
This program is so important because, for so long, teens and young adults with special needs have not had a place to have social and recreational activities with their typical peers. They have felt excluded and isolated. Conversely, typical teens have not had opportunities to get to know their peers with special needs on an equal level – just teens having fun! This program has been a source of joy for all and has brought the realization that we are more the same than different. We all want the same things – friends, acceptance and fun.
The current program facilitators are Sleepy Hollow High School teaching assistants, Elvira Juarez and Jessica Moore. When asked about their feelings about the program, Elvira stated, “It is a place to make new, meaningful and lasting friendships. I am so grateful to be a part of it”. Jessica added, “ Working in this program has been rewarding and has had a positive result for all”.
As for me, this program was one of the highlights of my career. It has been transformative and has made a life changing difference in the lives of all involved. We thank Kids’ Club for their support in making this happen.