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Graduating to the Next Level of Life, Hamaspik of Kings County Day Hab Celebrates

Staff, Family Members Hail Achievements by Individuals Serviced at Vital Program

July 28, '15

By Mendy Hecht, Hamaspik Gazette

It was 12:30 p.m. the early afternoon of June 18, and several dozen community members, all women, were gathered in the conference room of the Hamaspik of Kings County complex at 295 Division Avenue in the heart of Chasidic Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

Mothers and Medicaid Service Coordinators (MSCs), therapists and group-home managers, sisters and friends: they were all there for their loved ones, the young ladies who attended the Day Habilitation program over the past nine or so months.

The moment had been planned for months.

Beginning immediately after the Pesach (Passover) holiday in April, Day Hab Assistant Manager Mrs. Esther “Esty” Taub and Direct Support Professional (DSP) team started planning.

And now, their moment—their grand end-of-year graduation—had arrived.

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“They ‘graduate’ from one year to the next,” explains Mrs. Taub. “They want to feel that they accomplished something.”

But the graduation event is anything but a gesture of kindness meant to make individuals with disabilities feel good about themselves, but little else. Mrs. Taub rattles off a slew of real-life achievements attained over the past several months: art, education, dance, employment, and even sewing.

But did they really learn, internalize and master life skills that they had not possessed before?  “Absolutely!” Mrs. Taub proudly asserts.

Some had no idea how to sew, she continues.  At Hamaspik, with the painstaking and loving patience of DSPs Mrs. Neuwirth, Mrs. Witriol, Mrs. Philipson and Ms. Etengoff, they learned.  Ditto for level-appropriate math and spelling skills. “We don’t ignore it,” says Mrs. Taub.

Over the course of the year, local teacher Mrs. Rubin came in once a week to provide expert paid instruction in the art and science of sewing. Mrs. Eisen, another community-minded neighborhood instructor, came in weekly to teach the girls how to dance.

All that, and more, was being celebrated at the graduation event. Mrs. Neuwirth, DSP, opened the event by welcoming the crowd with a song.

The graduates then marched in, adorned in festive caps and gowns, to a song of their own; the melody’s lyrics described all that they do at Hamaspik and all that they had accomplished.

Following that opening presentation, one individual delivered prepared remarks, expressing her gratitude for the year gone by and all the milestones achieved.

Not to be left out, another song was sung highlighting the staff and the work that they do—and thanking them for it all.

Gifts to staffers from each graduate were then distributed.

The graduation culminated with a choreographed and synchronized song-and-dance routine illuminating how each graduate shines with various talents and traits; as the lyrics came forth, each graduate performed a solo dance of sorts to symbolically express those talents.

They had practiced the songs and accompanying motions once a week in the weeks approaching the graduation—and then for a good hour or more each day in the immediate run-up to the grand event. “The girls and mothers loved it,” Mrs. Taub reports.

Following the close of official ceremonies, the graduates marched down from the dais into the loving embraces of their proud parents and siblings. They then joined them for lighthearted banter in the festive but emotional atmosphere over gourmet cake, coffee, nuts and soft drinks. They also collected yearbooks and small souvenirs, of course.

Participants came away feeling like it was a real graduation—which it was.

It’s no wonder that Mrs. Taub reports that her charges want to do it every year.