“A Night Under The Stars” was a particularly joyous and memorable occasion for Bright Beginnings Learning Center–Secondary/ Piscataway Regional Day School graduates, thanks to funding from the Steve Weatherford World Champion Foundation and coordination efforts of about 25 staff members.
The graduates, students with Autism Spectrum Disorder or Multiple Disabilities, celebrated in a school cafeteria that staff transformed into an elegant venue earlier that day.
A veteran punter who played for several National Football League teams, (including the 2015 New York Jets), Mr. Weatherford’s foundation funds were used to: hire a professional photographer and DJ; cater food from Elite Lifestyle Cuisine; purchase battery operated tea light candles; distribute glow sticks and Hawaiian leis to students, and buy swirling stars and 200 black, silver and white balloons to hang from the ceiling.
Mr. Weatherford, who set a Super Bowl record with three punts inside the 10 yard line as a New York Giant in Super Bowl XLVI, also emceed the prom, which included announcing the Homecoming King and Queen.
“Steve loved interacting with students, and didn’t leave the dance floor until the final song,” said Classroom / SLE Teacher Lindsey Medeiros, a key coordinator of the event, along with Case Manager Alison Berkovits.
“Our staff did an amazing job putting the decorations together, setting up, serving food, dancing with the students, monitoring the prom, and of course, cleaning up,” Mrs. Medeiros added.
Parents also benefited, as a Transition Fair was organized to run simultaneously in the BBLC-Secondary Gymnasium. Nearly 20 organizations who help students expand their independent living skills participated, talking with parents and sharing materials and resource information.
“The representatives enjoyed meeting the families, and were delighted to see our students having such a great time,” said Mrs. Medeiros.
Transition Fair participants included: Planning for Adult Life; Spectrum Consulting; Prime Time; Freedman Law Office; Trinatas; Community Access; Easterseals New Jersey; Our House; Arc Middlesex County; Spectrum for Living; Hinkle, Fingles & Prior; New Jersey Institute of Disability Services; Davison Easton Attorney at Law; The Boggs Center on Developmental Disabilities; Statewide Parent Advocacy Network (SPAN); Access Link; Shift Support Coordinator, and the New Jersey Travel Independence Program (NJTIP). The New Jersey Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Services provided transition resource materials as well.
The BBLC-Secondary and PRDS are two of six schools within the Educational Services Commission of New Jersey (ESCNJ). In addition to operating six Middlesex County schools for students ages 3-21 with autism,moderate to severe disabilities, and at-risk behaviors, the ESCNJ extends special education services to school districts statewide. The largest Educational Services Commission in the state, the ESCNJ also coordinates transportation services for over 10,000 students across the state, and manages an 1,100 member Co-op Pricing System, the largest cooperative buying program in New Jersey.