Social InterAction: YMCA Hosts Game and Movie Night for Students With Special Needs

Berkeley Heights YMCA Hosted Game and Movie night with CBI students. Pictured left to right: Tiffany Escott, Director of BHYMCA, Jessica Beltz, Phillip Acosta, Doreen Ladinski, Sharon Leahy. Credits: Bobbie Peer
31 students volunteered to interact socially with CBI students during game and movie night at the Berkeley Heights YMCA. Credits: Bobbie Peer

BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - The Berkeley Heights YMCA hosted their first social "Game and Movie Night" for local high school students with special needs on Thursday, Oct. 15. This social event was a collaborative effort between Gov. Livingston High School and their InterAct Club, New Providence High School and the YMCA.  

Tiffany Escott, Director of the Berkeley Heights YMCA, approached the schools to offer the students regular social activities as an extension to the Community Based Instruction (CBI) Program. CBI is a critical component of a successful transition from school to adult life for many students with disabilities. 

"We started with the high school students because we find there is not a lot for that age group. There is more available for the younger students and adults," said Escott. 

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The CBI students participate in social events for the students to meet each other. Last spring, the students went bowling and had a game day at GL with a Game Truck and pizza, said Phillip Acosta, Gov. Livingston High School teacher. Future events will include a dance and another game/movie night at the YMCA.

When InterAct Club advisors Doreen Ladinsky and Sharon Leahy announced this volunteer opportunity to their service-based club members, the response was overwhelmingly positive. 

"It's nice that they [InterAct volunteers] are here to help and interact with the students," said Acosta.

"The goal is to create a very comprehensive program, providing more than just job training," said Acosta. The CBI Program includes life skills for cooking and recreation.

The CBI Program provides exposure to different jobs. A student would shadow a person at a job, with the goal to work up to a part time or full time job placement. "It is based on interest and feedback of what the student likes and what they are good at," said Acosta.  "They get the experience of what it would be like to be a part time employee," he said.

"Some of the students at GL and New Providence have been in the program for two years and are now paid employees," said Escott.

The students are provided a structured learning experience and are acquiring on-the-job skills .

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