The mission of CLASS/Arc of Greater Lawrence is to support, promote and facilitate the inherent rights of individuals with disabilities to experience a life of opportunity for personal growth and active, meaningful engagement in their community.
Redefining what's possible for people with disabilities.
At CLASS, we support people with disabilities, their families and their caregivers by building an environment to promote community partnerships and life enrichment. We promote people’s abilities so they can participate and take advantage of what life has to offer. Families and caregivers are supported directly by a professional, dedicated staff offering advocacy support as well as a range of services crucial to their loved ones’ successes.
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CLASS semester takes off with fitness
Thanks to a grant from New Balance Foundation, CLASS funded fitness designed for young people with disabilities as part of a collaboration among CLASS in Lawrence, Merrimack College in Andover, Andover High School, and Eruption Athletics from Pittsburgh, Penn.
Andover parents were thrilled.
“Andover parents can’t believe they were lucky enough to participate in this,” said Jean Tarricone, M.Ed., CAGS, head of the Special Education Program at the school. “I had been looking for a way to integrate fitness in our after-school program and when one of our seniors, Molly Manuel, said CLASS called, asking if we’d be interested, we jumped on it. We are all super excited.”
Since 1998 New Balance Foundation has supported CLASS with grants for physical fitness and community inclusion programming. This year the entire grant was allocated to the Andover High fitness pilot and the curriculum and expertise developed by Joe Jelinski and Chris Engler of Eruption Athletics. Outcomes were measurable and successful in every category.
“We invested the grant in a single, successful program with measurable outcomes and maximum benefit, rather than multiple individual programs that have limited or no long-term effects,” said Erin Henry, director of development at CLASS. “New Balance Foundation has been extremely generous to CLASS over the years and truly believes in our mission.”
The program included pre- and post-testing and several on-campus activities, with tours and a ball game in the mix, which keeps interest high and bodies busy.
"It was a great opportunity for the kids to be on the Merrimack College campus, work with college students and be a part of the program," said Marina Eleftheriou, Nikos' mom.
Two rec coordinators, Kayla Breton and Tara Daly, both Merrimack College Class of 2016, were hired to lead the fitness classes and work with the students. Since the first week of March they worked with the young students with disabilities on their fitness and mobility, and all showed progress.
“We are so proud of them and their continuous improvements and, of course, we loved to hang out with them three times a week!” said Kayla, a sports medicine student. “It has been such a joy to be able to work with every individual in the program.”
Kayla and Tara, a health sciences student with a concentration in nutrition, led the classes, inspired the participants and tracked their progress. Pretesting and post-testing, volunteer coordination and weekly progress reports were part of their job descriptions. For about an hour they led participants through 15 individual exercises. The young students gradually memorized the sequences, thanks to the mentor approach by 25 Merrimack College students assigned to the project, as part of their health sciences course led by Dr. Zi Yan. Students also gathered data for a research project.
But the biggest dividends from the pilot have been the bonhomie and friendships that developed among participants and students.
“Relationships between 25 Merrimack volunteers and eight amazing high school students continued to strengthen,” Tara said. “We noticed over and over again that Merrimack volunteers and Andover students had a blast working alongside one another!”
For more information, email or call Robin Ellington, Director of Marketing
978-975-8587, ext. 1227
CLASS is building a Center for Autism.
We have a great need in the Merrimack Valley Area for an adult day services program that specializes in serving the unique needs of individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
In the Merrimack Valley area alone it is estimated 15 teenagers a year will be leaving the school system and seeking day services.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention documented that one in 68 children now has a diagnosis of an ASD — a 30 percent increase in just two years. In 2002, about one in 150 children was considered autistic and in 1991 the figure was one in 500. Rates of autism spectrum disorder are not creeping up so much as leaping up.
However, at this time a services program in the Merrimack Valley Area does not exist. Without a program local to the Merrimack Valley youth with ASD will have to rely on long van rides, sometimes more than an hour one way, to get to the services they need.
CLASS has researched and is dedicated to meeting the needs of this ever growing population. We are working with the Autism Society of American, nationally renowned experts in the field, to be able to deliver a unique program model to meet both community and clinical needs of youth with ASD.
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978-975-8587 ext. 1339
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