Lauren Patrusky: Teen Empowerment Program

Category: Education

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Teen Empowerment Program :

Teen Empowerment Program By: Lauren Patrusky July 18 th , 2011 EEX 4070 TIA Project

Laurel Civic Association:

Laurel Civic Association Located in Laurel, FL This non for profit organization was founded over 40 years ago to provide a safe haven for disenfranchised teens, children, and families in the surrounding community as well as help make this population closer to the goal of self-sufficiency Mission Statement: "Shaping Foundations for Successful Lives" through education, social activities, providing needed support for the elderly and families, providing access to safe affordable housing, and acting as a catalyst for bringing in services that have an overall positive and permanent effect on the community and the residents.” General Demographics: Lower Socioeconomic status, with a predominate African American population Approximately 5,000 clients are served by this organization annually

What is the teen empowerment program?:

What is the teen empowerment program? The Teen Empowerment Program is a proactive prevention program designed to reach youth before they get into trouble and to help teens become life long learners, community role models, productive workers, and self-sufficient citizens. This program includes the following: Work Readiness Training Cooking and The Power of Eating Right Communication Skills Life Skills Training Financial Literacy International Toast Master Training Etiquette Training Motivational Enhancement Leadership & Team Work Training Personal Empowerment

Why did I choose to work with this population?:

Why did I choose to work with this population? My lifelong passion has always been working with and reaching out to children and teens. As my community service project, I wanted to work with at-risk teens and help them learn life and survival skills. I was referred to this organization by a former classmate. Additionally, I have always been interested in working and learning more about children with Asperger Syndrome. The Teen Empowerment program allowed me the opportunity to do so with a student who had Asperger Syndrome, Obessive Compulsive Disorder, and Oppositional Defiant Disorder.


Activities! For the past two months, I have volunteered on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 8:30 am-4 pm at the Summer Teen Empowerment Program. My job was to supervise the teens during group and individual activities. These included: Toast Master’s Meetings Teen Building Individually tutoring the teens on resume building & job applications Working with Suntrust in teaching financial literacy ( ie , balancing checkbooks) Creating my own presentations to the teens on “How to Be Successful in College” and “Tips and Tricks to Interviewing Techniques” My role was also to act as a mentor for the student with Asperger Syndrome, OCD, and ODD and to promote her social development

Participant demographics:

Participant demographics Age Range: 12-17 year olds Ethnic Background: The Teen Empowerment Program serves the most diverse group in the community. It mirrors the county break down of Caucasian, Asian, African American, and Hispanics. Linguistic Heritages: Spanish & English Exceptionalities: Only one student in this program had exceptionalities- Asperger Syndrome, OCD, and ODD.

Slide 8:

My project served one individual with disabilities As stated by the IDEA, “Children between the ages of 3 and 21, who meet the criteria in one of thirteen qualifying disturbances and who require special education services because of the disability can qualify for services under IDEA.” The student that I worked with has Asperger Syndrome which falls under the Autism spectrum. Autism is included as ‘one of the qualifying disturbances’ under the IDEA.

Service in action :

Service in action

Perception of differences:

Perception of differences At first, I was overwhelmed about this service-learning assignment. I was unsure about which organization to work with, and where I could find a diverse enough population to serve students with disabilities in my home county. I also did not know a lot of information about Asperger Syndrome and Oppositional Defiant Disorder. I thoroughly enjoyed volunteering at Laurel Civic Association’s Teen Empowerment Program! I hope to volunteer there again in the future. I also want to work more with children with disabilities. I feel much more comfortable about working with this population and confident that I can make a positive difference in their lives. The experiences that had the most impact on me was when the teens did not just see me as an intern/volunteer, but as a mentor and a teacher. They slowly started to look up to me, share their experiences with me, and ask for my help.

Connection to course:

Connection to course EEX 4070 Through my service learning experience, I now have a better understanding of Emotional/Behavioral Disorders, Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), and instructional strategies for students with these exceptionalities. I also understand that not all disabilities are physically apparent Emotional/Behavior Disorders : According to my EEX4070 lecture material, these types of disorders are caused by heredity, brain disorders, diet, stress, and family functioning problems. Characteristics which these individuals may possess are hyper-activity, aggression or self-injurious behavior, withdrawal, immaturity, and learning differences. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and Oppositional Defiant Disorder fall under this category. The student that I worked with did not have a severe case of OCD and ODD, but whenever she did feel overwhelmed in the Teen Empowerment setting, we allowed her to leave the room with a responsible adult and take a break. We also used a lot of encouragement, guidance, and praise to help with her ODD symptoms.

Connection to course continued…:

Connection to course continued… Autism Spectrum : A neurological disorder that affects a child’s ability to communicate and understand language, play, and relate to others. The student that I worked with had Asperger Syndrome which falls under the Autism Spectrum category. Individuals with Asperger Syndrome speak their mind, actively seek and enjoy solitude, are different with management and expression of emotions, have motor clumsiness, and have problems with organization and time skills. The student that I worked with had Asperger Syndrome. She was intelligent and high functioning. However, she would constantly seek solitude although she was surrounded by many peers her age She would also make it clear to me if she was “bored” or did not feel that a certain speaker or presentation applied to her

Slide 13:

Instructional Strategies: Helping children with Asperger Syndrome with facial expression & eye contact Give students social story to show what is about to happen Allowing students with OCD a break from the classroom when they are feeling overwhelmed Using basic biofeedback & mood cards to replace aggressiveness for students with OCD For ODD, it is important to decide which behaviors you are going to ignore, provide consistency and structure, establish a rapport with the child, always listen to the student, and give the student responsibilities. With the student in the TEP program, I utilized a lot of social learning strategies especially in helping her develop her speeches for Toast Master’s, allowed her to take breaks when she felt overwhelmed, and ensuring that I provided her with encouragement and a positive attitude when she was being particularly stubborn (such as when I wanted her to rehearse her speech prior to performing it) Previously to this course and my TIA Project, I have never worked extensively with students with exceptionalities nor knew about Oppositional Defiant Disorder. I have a much better understanding of the causes, symptoms, instructional strategies and accommodations to provide for these students. These experiences will empower me to become a stronger educator and to ensure that I meet the needs of all of the students in my classroom; both normal-developing and students with exceptionalities. I intend to learn and work more with these students so that I can best reach out to them.

Civic Engagement:

Civic Engagement I have always enjoyed civic engagement and volunteering. Previous to this experience, I have volunteered in numerous Elementary Schools, Summer Camps, FCAT Reading Programs, and Junior Achievement. I will definitely continue these activities in the future! Civic-Engagement is a method to reach out to individuals with free services, and to provide them with the support & encouragement that they need to become self-sufficient. It is also a way to give back to a community and to bring the community together Service Learning: I am an avid supporter of service learning, and firmly believe that hands-on experience is the best way to learn a variety of skills, reach out to others, and learn about yourself. Therefore, I would highly encourage teachers and students to embrace service learning in the future and to especially present their service-learning projects at the Annual UCF Service Learning Showcase to inspire others to create their own service learning projects!

Final thoughts & Reflection:

Final thoughts & Reflection The most important step in allowing others to gain a greater understanding, empathy, and opportunities for persons with disabilities is to EDUCATE. There are many people out there that do not have a great understanding of Autism Spectrum, learning disabilities, Emotional/Behavior Disorder, Intellectual Disabilities, etc. It is crucial for individuals to become aware, in order to become proactive. Different ways in which one could get others more involved is to pass own their own knowledge, encourage them to volunteer at their local schools/ work with students with disabilities, and have them watch videos and presentations of a “Day in the Life” of students with these exceptionalities. Teachers play a great role in educating students, parents, and communities about academic topics. However, sometimes the focus is too based on academics and assessment, that it strays away from teaching life & survival skills. More students need to be involved in preventative programs such as Teen Empowerment to increase confidence and self-esteem, teach real-world skills, keep students’ minds occupied, and provide a safe place to go to after school and when school is not in session.

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