As much as we love spending time with our students, we have always recognized that their desired post-high school outcomes are rightfully located outside our walls. We want our students to have rich lives that include physically and intellectually engaging leisure activities, meaningful work, and opportunities to develop fulfilling relationships. So we model and support our students’ social engagement inside TGS as we gradually guide them into increasingly more activities and engagements outside.
Sometimes we start by bringing the community in to interact with our students. This week, we had interactions with Bitsbox, Tuliva and Robauto, all technology start-ups whose founders have taken an interest in our program and students. We try to have guest speakers, often entrepreneurs from the business community, at least weekly. Their businesses and interests are as varied as our students: jewelry making, t-shirt design, coding, creative media, financial planning, dog training and more.
Less frequently (we have to reserve time for daily school work, after all!), but as often as we can, we take students out to experience the stimulating mix of people, ideas, and activities to be encountered in our community. We visit universities and businesses to explore ideas and occupations; we observe and investigate nature and the outdoors. Through our interactions we educate others about acceptance, neurodiversity, and our students’ potential.
This week, our “inside-outside”community explorations came together with a visit to Pi Kappa Phi. Throughout the fall, college students from Pi Kappa Phi’s Ability Experience have visited TGS. Over lunch, they play board games, toss footballs, and engage in conversation with our students. And then, perhaps not surprisingly, they invited our students to a party. Pi Kappa Phi guys worked with student and staff representatives to plan a Halloween party for our students – on the CU campus, hosted by Pi Kappa Phi and their sister sorority.
What an unexpected pairing. But that’s what makes our community richer: Engaging with a variety of people, some who are like you, some who are not; some who are easy to connect with, some who require persistence to engage. From fraternity “bros,” to sometimes awkward teenagers with ASD, it takes all kinds of people to create a community. Longmont/Boulder/Denver communities, we can’t wait to meet more of you!