Instilling pride in special needs students and their school

The Gengras Center in West Hartford, Connecticut, is a state-approved, private special education school for elementary, middle and high school students with autism, intellectual and developmental disabilities and related behavioral challenges.

Tricia Melly knew about Gengras from her husband, who is a long-time educator at the school. “I always enjoyed attending the school’s dances and plays. The activities open your eyes to the fact that kids are still kids no matter what other issues they may be facing.”

The Global Day of Giving volunteer team works with Gengras students in creating enhanced outdoor spaces for education and fun. In past years, they have created vegetable and flower gardens, improved the boundless playground and yurt facilities as well as spring cleaning the high elements adventure course used to increase students’ confidence and build teamwork. According to Tricia, “the real benefit is the experience of working side by side with the students.”

In the first year, there were approximately 10 volunteers. Now Tricia has to cap the attendance at 20 to ensure that there is enough work and enough student involvement. “I want everyone – students and employees – to feel challenged and fulfilled. It’s really inspiring when you see the pride in the students’ eyes after their peers and parents view and comment on the completed projects. It’s pride in their work as well as pride in their school.”

Tricia’s interpretation of being a good corporate citizen encompasses the corporation’s role as well as the individual’s role within the community as a whole. “A corporation is more than an address or a building. Events such as the Global Day of Giving and ongoing relationships with various local nonprofit groups, sponsorships of the arts and other enrichment programs are critically important to the health of our communities.” Tricia takes her commitment to being a good corporate citizen beyond the Global Day of Giving and hopes this effort to build ongoing relationships with the community will continue on into the future.

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