The evidence is strong: engagement in enriching activities after school and in the summer improves performance in school and decreases at-risk behavior. Charlottesville offers a rich selection of quality after school and summer enrichment and recreational programs, but for large numbers of children with disabilities, these programs are unavailable.
Through “Project Access” The Enrichment Alliance of Virginia currently provides mentors for children with neurological disabilities enrolled in our own programs, and in one community based enrichment program. Some children in our program have intellectual development disorders. Many others are intellectually gifted, but due to the challenges posed by Asperger’s Syndrome, ADHD, and other neurologically based disabilities they benefit from the support and guidance an understanding adult can provide. These are children who are better able to develop social skills and unfold their creative and intellectual gifts due to the gentle support of their mentors.
We know that we have barely begun to address the needs in our community. Surveys we have conducted indicate a strong, even at times urgent, need for support of children with special needs in mainstream enrichment and recreational programs. Our ability to serve these children is limited by the number of mentors available to us. In the past year, we have had to turn down students interested in our own program as well as requests for mentors from other community based programs. It is a terribly painful thing to say “no” to a child we know would benefit tremendously from engagement in the wonderful programs available to other children in our community.
As a “Project Access” mentor, you will have the opportunity to attend enrichment program activities with a child who needs just a little extra support and guidance to be successful. You will have the pleasure of making a great new friend, getting involved in the community, and knowing you made a huge difference in the life of a child. Project Access is a program of The Enrichment Alliance of Virginia. For more information, please visit us on either the United Way website or www.enrichva.org
Posted by guest blogger, Mary Anna Dunn, Program Director, Enrichment Alliance of Virginia
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