Students from Lee College’s Life Skills class and volunteers from the college’s Red Hat Society celebrated the conclusion of class with games, food, giveaways and lots of fun.
An hour before the students entered the room, the volunteers were putting final touches on an annual celebration. To the volunteers, it’s another great way to show they care about the community. To the members of the class and their families, it’s a way for the intellectually disabled students to celebrate their completion of another class at college.
“The students are so appreciative, excited and just so full of joy,” volunteer Cuba Cook said. “Sometimes this kind of pure happiness disappears when children become adults, but with these students, it’s always there. You just get this warm fuzzy feeling from being around their excitement about everything.”
For the past three years, volunteers from the society set up an end-of-the-class party. Senior Adult and Travel Manager Lynne Foley leads the Red Hat Society through the Lee College Center for Workforce and Community Development.
“We bring balloons, give out door prizes, play bingo, have dinner and yummy cookies. At the end, we’ll pass out their certificates,” Foley said. “It’s a good time. Just being here with them brings us so much happiness. It’s got to be as much – and maybe even more – fun for us as it is for them.”
As the students and their family members and care takers begin to arrive, the excitement everyone talks about becomes apparent. Instructor Cindy Barny greets the students and guests by name, and joins in the buzz about the games and food.
For more than 20 years, Barny has worked with intellectually disabled adults. Most of that time, her work has been through the Life Skills class she teaches at the center. Some of her students have been in the class for 15 years or more.
“This class is something we’re so proud of, because it gives Lee College the opportunity to serve intellectually disabled adults. They’re a part of our community, and they deserve our support,” the Center’s Community Education Program Manager Quanisha Eaglin said. “And we’re so appreciative of Cindy’s continued support and commitment each semester. She really puts her heart into the class, and creates an inviting class for students to gather, learn and have fun.”
Barny, who has a background in special education and early childhood development, perks up when talking about the class. Students learn things like basic reading skills, math skills, money skills and hand-
eye coordination in each class. This semester, they learned about hygiene, and how to take care of themselves. But it’s more than just practical skills, according to Barny.
“The name of the class is Life Skills, but it’s so much more. It’s just as much socialization. It’s about what they want to talk about and learn. And wow, they love computers,” Barny said. “They love to play fun interactive games with reading and math skills.”
For many of the students, this class gives them the opportunity to interact and learn together and develop friendships.
“They’re just excited to be in college. My youngest student is probably in his early 20s,” Barny said. “He loves being in school. His family is happy, because he’s happy. They like the interaction, and they like how engaged he is because of it.”
The next class begins Feb. 8 and runs through April 19, and classes will be held Wednesdays from 5:30- 8:30 p.m., on the Lee College campus. Anyone interested in learning more about the class is encouraged to contact the Center for Workforce and Community Development at 281.425.6311.