By Josee Li
Autism is known as a mental condition characterized by difficulty in communicating and forming relationships with other people and in using language and abstract concepts. Together at the BLAST (Bigs and Littles Autism Support Team) program, Bigs (high schoolers) mentor and aid Littles (elementary school children diagnosed with autism), so that autism is not just a label that defines who these children are as people. The BLAST program helps these kids grow as independent, kind, respectful, and expressive children so that one day, they can become stronger individuals. They believe in hope and improvement, and they never give up. Each week, Bigs in the BLAST program work with their Littles on comprehension, communication, expression, and social skills. After working closely and personally with their Littles, many Bigs are proud to state that they are able to see progress and improvement in their Littles over the many weeks of persistence and hard work. Even small things, such as making eye contact, or asking a question in a conversation, are considered huge successes with each individual child. Dedication and compassion are what drive Bigs to connect and aid their Littles.
However, in January, the BLAST program was having trouble with funds to continue next year. Fortunately, due to Mr. Gamble’s constant support, the marching band’s generosity, Dr. Dawn Haaz’s cooperation, and the altruistic spirits of my high school volunteers, I was able to organize a fundraising car wash at the Newtown Ambulance on May 28.
It was not an easy process and there were many obstacles to overcome, such as starting out with no supplies at all. Thankfully, due to the marching band and the donations of so many generous peers, we collected an overabundance of supplies.
The day of the car wash was a beautiful, sunny 88 degrees. Cars were pollen-infested, and the event was a huge success, as a constant line of cars was ready to get washed. Word had gotten out and people in the community came to support autism and the BLAST program. Parents of the BLAST program came and advertised. There was even a man who came to donate because his nephew had low-functioning autism. Later, it was revealed that he had generously donated $50.
The volunteers washed a total of 50 cars in 3 hours and raised $659, more than what was ever expected. A special thanks to the volunteers: Josee Li, Aleena Somy, Jackie Koo, Jennifer Chen, Dylan Klevan, Melody Wu, Nicole Rafalofsky, Jaden Schoenfeld, Annabelle Boyd, Katerina Brilleman, Matilda Brilleman, Anita Szoke, Anne Johnson, Sara Millman, Abby Millman, Andrew Sullivan, and Mallory Durkin. These volunteers were troopers and were able to wash fifty cars under the hot sun out of the kindness of their hearts. Another special thanks to the marching band and Riley Gallagher, Sam Schnell, Margaret Zheng, Yasmin Barcuki, and Jordan Galing for donating so many clean, new supplies so that the car wash could be put into motion. Thank you again to Mr. Gamble, who agreed to be the supervisor and administrator of my car wash and who offered constant support and motivation.
Many people who came to get their car wash learned something new about autism and left with the satisfaction of supporting a great cause. Due to the great success of the car wash, Bigs will be able to see their Littles again next year, thanks to the support of their community, peers, supervisors, and family. Those 50 cars were able to secure another 30 weeks of Bigs’ mentoring their Littles, which goes a long way.
Personally, I’ve learned that we need to support more of these wonderful programs in our community, which is why I have formed a club that will start next year in the fall, tentatively called the IDD Support Club, or the Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Support Club. We as a club work together to have a positive impact on the lives of kids with intellectual and developmental disabilities by raising money for organizations that support our overall goals, increasing awareness in our community, and fighting for fair treatment by ending social and physical isolation.
If you are interested, or want to learn more, please join the club next year. The club, which is devoted to supporting kids with intellectual and developmental disabilities, can also help other high schoolers find their passion and grow as active teenage volunteers and members in our community.
High schoolers can learn to make an impact in their community, especially for those with disabilities. On May 28, 16 students of CRN were able to display their compassion for our community by washing cars for a great cause. Those 50 cars were able to fund 30 more weeks, or another year, of mentoring so that one day, Littles can grow up and become independent individuals.
By Kiara Alvarez and Shira Palmer
There are several important members of our school who are retiring this year. They are Mr. Gamble, Ms. Williams, and Ms. Winokur. All of them have served our school passionately over the decades, and each has contributed to the community in both the academics and in extra-curricular activities.
Mr. Gamble was once a social studies teacher before he became a principal. As an assistant principal, Mr. Gamble works tirelessly to assist everyone in our school and is perhaps best known for his friendly face in the hallways. When students have had problems, he has been there for them and for our school community. He is always there to help students and teachers whenever he can. Although he is very social, he also does some “behind-the-scenes” work at our school. He is the one who helps coordinate the announcements, and he has been in charge of and advocated for our extracurricular programs, especially the music department. He has advocated for the music program over his years working here and has helped the department acquire its state-of-the-art technology. Mr. Gamble will be dearly missed by everyone in our school, but he will be especially missed by the class of 2019.
Ms. Williams is a biology and earth science teacher who has been an active member of the community for many years. She has positively contributed to many generations over the years and has instilled a love of science into each class of students she has taught. She made science very exciting and interactive for her students and will be dearly missed by all of them.
Ms. Winokur is a well-known Spanish teacher here at Council Rock North. She teaches Honors Spanish III and IV. She is well-versed in Spanish and speaks it fluently with her class. She brought the Spanish culture to the classroom and made the classroom feel alive with her lively spirit. Her students will remember her fondly for her love of the Spanish language and for her persistence in helping them to be the best students and people they can be.
Overall, everyone who is retiring this year has done a superb job over the years. They have prepared their students in one way or another for the future that lies ahead of them, and we thank all of them for all of their hard work and support over the years. They will be greatly missed, and the impacts that they made on their students will never be forgotten.