Video by Amanda Jupena, WTAE TV Pittsburgh’s Action 4 News
Special Education students at The Education Center at The Watson Institute sold holiday cards this season to raise funds to provide holiday gifts to children experiencing homelessness in local shelters run by the Homeless Children’s Education Fund (HCEF). This annual holiday project has been in place for 5 years and as the project has grown, so have the proceeds, which this year allowed Watson students to purchase 90 gifts valued at $500.Katie Patterson, a team coordinator at Watson’s Education Center, started the project as a classroom teacher in 2011. Katie’s father, Bill Wolfe, is the Executive Director at HCEF. “I wanted to teach my students about community service and giving to others” said Katie. “With my dad being the Executive Director of HCEF, I had the opportunity to visit shelters and meet families experiencing homelessness. I wanted to find a way to collaborate with HCEF to help these families around the holidays and teach my students about the importance of helping others.”
The classroom consists of 10 students, ages 12 – 19 diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and other special needs. All 10 students participated in the project and each created their own design based on their interests and ideas. So that each student could participate to their best of their ability, classroom teachers and aides used adaptive equipment (communication devices, for instance) for students to choose colors, patterns, shapes and designs. Students also packaged the printed cards, delivered them internally at the school and collected money. Their pride when they received compliments on the finished product was evident.
Students shopped for gifts at Five Below, Wal-Mart, and Tuesday Morning. Gifts were suggested by shelter staff and include board games, crafts, art supplies and sporting equipment.
PGC Printing in Sewickley, PA printed the cards this year. Watson also partners with PGC Printing as a Community Based Instruction site where students help out in the office learning job skills.
Students visited the HCEF office on December 15 to deliver the gifts.