Autism Awareness Month occurs each April with a wide variety of events and activities across the US. It is a time that is near and dear to each student and staff member at College Internship Program’s (CIP) Brevard Center in Melbourne, Florida. CIP Brevard offers comprehensive programs for teens and young adults ages 18-26 with Autism and other Learning Differences.
To kick off Autism Awareness Month on April 1st, CIP Brevard decorated their offices in blue as part of Autism Speaks’ Light It Up Blue campaign. That evening, four CIP Brevard students (Megan, Dan, Michael & Stephanie) and one staff (Wade) volunteered at the 5th Annual Uncorked wine tasting event in Satellite Beach, FL. Our students helped to greet patrons, serve food and drinks, and assist with the raffle fundraiser. The event raised money for Brevard PALS, a local organization supporting individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders as well as their families and local programs.
On Saturday, April 2nd (World Autism Day), CIP Brevard Center students (Dan, Cole, Nick, Becca, Benny, Trey, A.J., and Thea) and Admissions Coordinator, Jessica Stacey, proudly showed their support by “lighting it up blue” at the Treasure Coast Walk Now for Autism Speaks. There was a great turnout with a DJ kicking off the event with music and vendors who provided resources and fun activities for families. Thea, CIP student, helped out at the CIP Brevard Center booth and engaged children with the “Lollipop Tree” game which was a great hit with the kids!
Our CIP Brevard team was the top fundraising team, raising over $4700 to support Autism Speaks! Student team captain, Dan, raised an astonishing $3300 thanks to his generous family and friends… and said “it all goes to support a good cause to provide a voice and raise awareness for those who may not be able to express their needs.” Autism Speaks is dedicated to funding research, increasing awareness of autism spectrum disorders, and advocating for the needs of individuals with autism and their families. The Treasure Coast walk was a great way to kick-off the CIP Brevard Center’s annual Autism Awareness Month efforts!
On Tuesday, April 5th at the Melbourne Regional Chamber (of East Central Florida), business owners enthusiastically listened to CIP Brevard Center students, Megan and Daniel, as they spread their message of autism acceptance. A discussion ensued on the benefits to hiring young adults on the spectrum. The panel, which included several local organizations such as CIP, was invited to present as part of the Chamber’s Autism Awareness Month efforts this April.
On Saturday, April 9th, eighty families of children with autism enjoyed an amazing Family Festival courtesy of Brevard PALS. It was the perfect way to celebrate Autism Awareness Month. CIP Brevard students and staff were excited to support this event by volunteering a day of service. Team CIP set-up stations for face painting, human-sized tic-tac-toe, lawn bowling, balloon games, and crafts. And, of course, their favorite CIP station was the water balloon toss that turned into an all out water balloon war at the end of the festival.
Families also enjoyed dancing to a DJ, watching a robot demonstration, taking advantage of the cool lego play area, playing on the newly built Field of Dreams playground, bouncing in a bounce house and eating delicious food courtesy of event sponsors: Brevard PALS and the Puzzle Box Academy. Some children even won free bikes as part of the raffle giveaway. Families and volunteers were given the opportunity to take pictures using the Autism Awareness Puzzle Piece frame… definitely a fun picture opportunity! Jennifer Kolarik, CIP Brevard Community Service Coordinator said “It was an honor to be part of such a special event to support our Brevard families who have been touched by autism. My favorite special touch was the fun, colorful, wacky headbands given out to all volunteers. Congratulations to the many Brevard PAL volunteers who made this event so wonderful. I look forward to seeing this event grow in future years so that more Brevard families can take part in such a special day!”
There were also many opportunities to present to our local community and as far as Washington, D.C. this April. On the 10th, Admissions Coordinator, Jessica Stacey, and Director, Dr. Michele Ramsay, exhibited and presented at the ASK US FLORIDA Annual Autism Conference and Resource Fair, in Melbourne, Florida. Families walked away with an understanding of CIP’s comprehensive programs and offerings that can benefit their child.
On April 8th, Dr. Ramsay and Megan, a CIP student, were interviewed by Dr. Judy Ramos for the Dr. Judy show for The Autism Channel. The following week, Dr. Ramsay was invited to speak at the Atlantis Academy in Coral Springs, FL on preparing students to transition to college and careers and she also presented “How Do I Self-Advocate?” with Ryan Therriault, Lead Academic Coordinator, on April 15th and 16th at the Accessibility Summit in Washington, D.C.
To wrap up Autism Awareness Month in 2016, Jennifer Kolarik, Lead Career Coordinator, Jessica Stacey, Admissions Coordinator, and two students (Lauren and Megan) will speak on April 27th and 28th at the Visions XXIII Conference on career development and transition in Lake Mary, FL. They will offer career preparation tips to assist students with Asperger’s Syndrome and Learning Differences for post-secondary success. The CIP Brevard staff and students are thankful for the many opportunities to reach out to the community this month!