When two local special-needs advocates collaborate, the possibilities are nothing short of magical. Just ask Dawn Presley, principal of Summit Academy Akron Elementary school, and Lisa Armstrong, director of communications for United Disability Services, whose respective organizations will come together at Akron Elementary’s literacy celebration event, Carnival Night, Thursday, Jan. 16.
As with most harmonious unions, food will play an important role at the educational event. As the school’s students and their family members meander about Summit Academy’s cafeteria-turned-carnival, they’ll take time out to enjoy boxed dinners prepared by UDS employees who work for the organization’s catering service, Taste Buds.
Specifically, as students and their families participate in the magic-theme literacy event focused on making reading fun for children, they will also get a firsthand glimpse at culinary talent at work.
“Taste Buds helps prepare people who may want to work in the food industry,” says Armstrong, explaining how the catering service is one of many workforce training and employment opportunities UDS provides for individuals with disabilities.
“Some of our students may be involved in UDS later in life,” says Presley, emphasizing that the collaboration “is a nice partnership of two special needs organizations helping each other.” She adds that Summit Academy Akron Elementary plans to engage UDS in future catered events at the school, such as its upcoming science fair and test preparation night.
At this week’s event, in addition to enjoying the UDS-prepared meals, students and families will watch Magical Mr. J perform reading tricks. They also will play assorted literacy-themed carnival games and receive take-home goodies including books on magic, flash cards, wizard reading glasses, and magic wands.
“When learning is fun, it becomes more enjoyable,” says Angela Swaino, who serves as a data coach for Akron Elementary.
Third-grader Alaina, who got a sneak peek at the school carnival setup and books, sums up the much-anticipated school event with two simple words: “really cool.”