In collaboration with the Beaver County System of Care, Pressley Ridge is honored to be a part of the
Beaver County Youth Ambassador Program, which aims to spread awareness and reduce stigma related to mental health issues among high school students. The program began in 2016 with representatives from five school districts, and by next school year, the list will have grown to 15 with as many as 10 students participating from each school.
During two events held in early 2017, the students attended workshops and heard personal stories of mental illness, advocacy and recovery. The ambassadors also discussed ways to alert their peers
how and where to find help. Student-designed posters featuring reassuring messages and helpline
information will soon be hung throughout the halls of the partner schools. In addition, ambassadors
volunteered to speak about their own mental health experiences for a compilation video that was shared on Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day on May 4.
Henrietta Thomas has been a foster parent with Pressley Ridge for 20 years, and in that
time, more than 100 children have called her house home.
Many of the kids she has fostered continue to visit – some bringing their own children to meet
Henrietta and all hoping for one of her home-cooked meals. Her current foster children agree
that she makes the best dinners and baked goods.
Ms. Henrietta is a model parent, offering guidance and support to others who are new to
fostering. She is always available in a time of need or crisis and will go above and beyond to
make sure a child has a safe and loving home.
One child said, “Ms. Henrietta does whatever she can to make sure we get along. She doesn’t
make me feel like I am in a foster home.”
We are fortunate to have hundreds of foster parents, many of whom, just like Ms. Henrietta,
have given decades of love, support and dedication to our kids and families.
This spring, 28 students graduated from the six Pressley Ridge Schools, along with dozens
more youth from our foster care, community-based and residential programs. These
students have experienced varying degrees of adversity in their young lives, yet through hard
work and determination, they have succeeded.
Kira, who recently transitioned to independent living from Pressley Ridge foster care, is just
one of this year’s commendable stories. Throughout high school, Kira maintained straight A’s
while working part time and taking free online college courses. She graduated with honors
from Hamilton High School and will attend Miami University Hamilton in the fall, where she
was awarded nearly $100,000 in scholarships and plans to study forensic investigation.
Steve came to Pressley Ridge Day School Johnstown at the age of 12 with a diagnosis of
Selective Mutism. He struggled with academics, refused to participate in group activities,
ignored instruction and became physically aggressive. In his eight years at the school, he
made great strides and eventually began responding verbally in class, making friends and even
participating in a school-to-work program at REI, where he now hopes to secure full-time
employment. Steve's mother proudly boasts, "Pressley Ridge has been a life saver. I now get
to see my son, whom I never expected to graduate, not only graduate, but with the highest
grades…and the opportunity to go on and further his education.
There are many more shining examples of success in the Pressley Ridge Class of 2017, and we are
proud of how far they have come. No matter where they are headed, we wish them the best of luck.
An afternoon coffee break is a daily routine for many. For the staff working at Pressley Ridge’s Pittsburgh Campus – which includes the Day School Pittsburgh and the School for Autism – their coffee break is much more meaningful.
Three days each week, students from the Pressley Ridge School for Autism (PRSA) operate a coffee shop on campus. On the surface, the PRSA Coffee Shop offers a welcome service to the staff in the form of beverages and snacks, but it’s the students who run the shop who benefit much more than the customers.
The coffee shop is a therapeutic environment where the students learn valuable social and vocational skills, including appropriate work place etiquette. The are four jobs: greeter, snack stand, barista and cashier. Each job has specific expectations that vary based upon the individual student’s needs and abilities, which increases the students’ chance for success.
The use of meaningful Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) in the coffee shop is encouraged. AAC includes various methods of supplementing or replacing speech to convey wants and needs. When a student uses any form of AAC, a unique vocabulary is developed for communication in the work environment, which promotes communication in settings outside of the classroom. Group conversations are led by PRSA’s Speech-Language Pathologist, and social language and the art of “small talk” become a byproduct of the work environment.
Though staff are closely monitoring, students working in the coffee shop are given the least intrusive level of prompting to promote independence. The staff are also able to identify each student’s strengths and weaknesses, which can be used to develop a work-biography to be passed on to future placements.
For our students, the PRSA Coffee Shop is an important stepping stone between a highly structured therapeutic environment and the real world, and it is just one of the many ways we prepare our students for life after Pressley Ride.
The children of Pressley Ridge are big fans of the Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins – both on and off the ice. Over the past five years, the Pittsburgh Penguins Foundation has supported our kids with nearly $75,000 in financial contributions that have provided art therapy and educational tools for children and young adults with autism. During the most recent NHL season, groups of Pressley Ridge kids from Pittsburgh and Johnstown, PA, Morgantown, WV and Western Maryland were treated to the unique experience of watching a game from the Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin Charity Suites. One youth said, "Thank you for giving me one of the best Christmases ever. Seeing the Penguins was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for me." One lucky group of kids not only got to experience a Peng-win, they also sat next to Christina Aguilera, who graciously took time to take photos with our kids! We are so grateful to the Pittsburgh Penguins Foundation for their continued support of our kids and families.
On Friday, May 19th Johnstown student danced the afternoon away at the Junior/Senior Prom. Students enjoyed music by our own DJ, Mr. Deater, posed for pictures with their classmates, and enjoyed light refreshments. It was a day filled with happy memories!
Dave Donate, owner of The Orchard, in Geistown recently visited the students and staff to make a $2,800.00 donation to the Day School Johnstown. The students were also entertained by a few magic tricks and all received a new water bottle and a pen. Every April for the past six years Mr. Donate has donated a percentage of patron’s dinners along with portions of his Saturday night tips in the effort to raise autism awareness. To date, he has donated over $11,500.00.
May is National Foster Care month, which was created to not only highlight the children in care and the need for foster parents, but also to celebrate the dedication of the families and the workers who support them. Staff, kids and families all across the regions celebrated National Foster Care Day by wearing blue. One of our WV foster parents commented, "This team is awesome. They do an amazing job guiding and helping foster homes. They truly do love their jobs and have hearts of gold to give these kids a loving home. Proud to belong to such an amazing company!"
As a part of our community outreach program, The Shanksville-Stonycreek School District brought their Senior boys basketball team for a little competition. The Shanksville- Stonycreek Vikings are the District V Champions, Single A Division, West PAC South Champions, and reached the Sweet 16 Playoffs in the State Playoffs with an overall 25-2 record. Two of the senior boys, Aaron Smith and Jessie Bittner played a half-court game against two of our students and our one and only Mr. Martin. The other senior boys acted as referees and the cheering section. The final score was 19 – 16, Pressley. After the game the senior boys spent time shooting hoops with all students who wanted to participate and then allotted time for autographs. It was a great morning spending time with a neighboring school.
For the 9th year in a row, the Central Delaware Chamber of Commerce honored the wonderful, resourceful, and creative people that are Administrative Professionals! This year, Walter Randolph, Office Manager, Dover, DE was surprised by his selection of being recognized as one of three “BEST OF THE BEST” winners! Walter, along with the two other winners will be highlighted in the Chamber Connections newspaper, receive a prize donated by a Chamber Member as well as a prize package inclusive of a pampering package from Aurora Academy of Hair Design; a floral bouquet from Jen-Mar Florist and a Mary Kay Cosmetics Gift Basket
The Dover, DE team jumped at the opportunity to recognize and celebrate Walter who has been a member of the Pressley Ridge team for the past ten years. Walter is a man of action; he is described by his peers as loyal, dedicated and supportive. He serves as the face of the Kent Co. office; he warmly greets all visitors and always has a story about his family’s beloved Basset Hounds! Walter stays abreast of deadlines that not only impact his work, but those of staff as well and sends gentle reminders prior to expiration to keep us all in compliance. Walter is proactive and does not wait for directives to address issues. Due to this attention to detail and cooperative spirit direct service staff are able to focus and manage the stressful day to day of serving youth and families.
Pressley Ridge has a vision of “all kids thrive” and a mission that states “whatever it takes to create success for children and families.” Walter personifies these statements and presents with a“whatever it takes” attitude and can do spirit. He has a calm and relaxed demeanor and often serves as a sounding board presenting practical and a neutral positions; both qualities needed in such a fast paced and emotionally charged work environment in which we operate. Walter makes himself available 24/7; he stays abreast of staff’s community location daily for safety purposes and can be found offering a helping hand, whether its loading or unloading cars ; changing a co-workers or families tire in our parking lot or being present during emotionally charged family visitation; Walter can be depended
Walter is a consummate professional. He arrives early each day; has a unique sense of humor; is well rounded and can hold a conversation on an array of topics. Walter accommodates the many requests of staff and foster families to ensure their day moves a little more smoothly.
CONGRATULATIONS WALTER!!!! We greatly appreciate you!
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