Learn – June 2022

On the Job Training…about People

“What strikes me,” Randy McCaffety said, “is that I have learned so much about people, particularly those with special needs. Everyone is different; everyone has ways they want to communicate.”

Randy started with New Danville in November 2021 as a driver. “I learned a lot about the Wrangler 2s and their lives while driving,” he said, “but now, being in the classroom with them all day, I have learned a lot more.” Randy recently stepped in as direct support professional to work with the group of those who need additional support and attention. While temporarily filling the gap, he felt that he grew.

Randy said that he loves to shake things up for the Wrangler 2s. He uses storytelling as an opportunity to improvise during parts of the storybook that he is reading from. “I like to interject jokes and add humor to their day. It is all part of having fun. They learn and grow during fun times, I believe.”

One of the characteristics that has most caught his attention is their innocence. “I think that makes it hard for them in society today.” Another is their desire to communicate. “They’re smart and they find ways to share when they want to get a point across. Even if they can’t verbalize, they find a way.”

“I’ve also learned that some doors are opened for you. Some are knocked down so you can enter. I was sent here for a reason. I am learning more about the reason every day.”

His growth came about because of the growth in New Danville enrollment.  With the recent addition of new direct support professionals, he then returned to his other roles. “People growing in different ways at different times is a sign of a committed team,” said Eva Aguirre, President and CEO.

Learn – May 2022

Mixing customized beauty

The Wranglers’ favorite thing about the newest class offering for day program attendees?  The smell!

They call the class Blushing Beauty, but it could be called Lotions and Potions. Wranglers get to make their own beauty products with the scent that each is looking for. “They come up with some interesting combinations,” according to Direct Support Professional Melissa Varney. “I admit, the production area where class is held sure smells nice after each class.”

To personalize their output even more, class participants get to design their own labels for the bottles that hold their special lotions.

“The Wranglers do it all,” Melissa said. “They do the research for various recipes, test the various recipes to see which ones they like and then decide what to make. Frankly, some of the things they have made are better than what can be found in stores,” she added with a proud smile.

Wranglers learn kitchen skills – measuring, blending, mixing and pouring – while creating their products. “Like everything at New Danville,” Melissa said, “we try to use every class as a way for Wranglers to learn skills they can use in life and not just in class. We continue to move their boundaries and then empower them to reach that limit; then we move the boundaries again. We don’t think about limits; we think of possibilities.”

Wranglers enjoy the creative and practical lessons learned in class, but they enjoy using their products even more!

Learn – April 2022

“What’s to eat?” All that’s good!

Rosie Aguirre is a recent addition to the New Danville team of Direct Support Professionals, but she is making friends fast. Apparently, the way to anyone’s heart is through their tummy, and taste buds. Rosie leads the return of the Culinary class to the list of day program options.

“We’ve made traditional breakfasts, as well as a lot of other things like cheese enchiladas, chicken enchiladas and….,” she tried to explain before several Wranglers happily chimed in with some of their favorite dishes they learned to cook in class.

Wranglers and Wrangler 2s (those who need more attention and assistance) enjoy the class, helping in ways they are able to. Everyone gets to do what they can, and together they create great meals while having fun. Whether it is measuring ingredients, stirring a flavored drink, putting trays in the oven or watching a pot on the stove, there is plenty to do so no one is bored during class.

What the Wranglers learn doesn’t stop at the classroom kitchen door. Many like to cook at home, whether they live independently at New Danville or at home with parents or care providers. “My favorite thing to make at home is shepherd pie,” one Wrangler said.

Everyone likes their food to their own taste, but on one topic the entire class had the same answer to a question.  “What’s your favorite part of class?”   “Eating the food!”

Learn – March 2022

New semester:  New classes and popular favorites return

A new semester for the day program at New Danville started on March 14. Wranglers will be welcoming back some classes they haven’t seen in a while and a new one. “We get input from the Wranglers,” said program coordinator, Nicole Martinez, “and pick up a vibe of the type of things they are looking for. We want to be sure they get plenty of choices that are fun, exciting and different. ‘Blushing Beauty’ is one such new class.”

“Blushing Beauty” brings New Danville’s experiences in the production of bath and beauty products to Wranglers for their own supplies. Class attendees will be able to concoct and make their own products, as well as design their own, unique label for the products’ containers.  Wranglers working in the production department create a variety of products that are sold at New Danville’s online store, as well as at Jazzy Junque. Now, that expertise will benefit participants in the new class.

Several popular classes are returning — “Back by popular demand,” as the old saying goes.  Included in the new schedule are scrapbooking, golf cart driving, Trivial Pursuit ™, American Sign Language and Giving Back. The latter class offers Wranglers a chance to help with the needs of nonprofits and organizations in the community. Their efforts to help Keep US Fed-Montgomery County caught the attention of local media in October as this story reveals. Wranglers keep coming up with ideas. They are going to have a busy, fun spring.

Learn – February 2022

New and popular already:  meditation class

When the idea of adding a meditation class to the mix of day program options came up in the fall, Direct Support Professional Shay was selected to develop and lead the class. “None of us knew what to expect and how to put together the right class for our Wranglers. I was a bit nervous. It was like putting together a puzzle with all the pieces face down, but I think it came out well.”  That would be an understatement considering the popularity of the class and the participants’ many improvements.

Wranglers speak to the elements they like best: “releases energy,” “we get to talk and let our minds relax,” and “writing in our journals.” Shay explained that each session includes several components. Participants start by writing in their journals after which they stretch for a few minutes. Loosened up, they then spend about 10 minutes in whatever position they are most comfortable in while being alone with their thoughts as quiet music plays in the background. After that, it is open session to chat about anything that is on the minds of the attendees.  “Once someone gets the conversation going, things really begin to roll. Everyone gets in on the conversation.”

“I researched a lot about meditation classes and came up with something I thought would work well for the Wranglers. I was then able to order the materials and supplies we needed,” Shay said. “We had no idea of how it would be received by the Wranglers; they love it!”

She described how class participants have shown dramatic improvement in many areas, including mood, communication and socialization. She said that the Wranglers need quiet time breaks and opportunities to reflect and relax. Participants agree. The hope is that the class will go year-round because of the positive outcomes.

“They aren’t the only ones benefitting from this,” she said. “After the class, I am more relaxed and see things differently. I really enjoy it and am glad the Wranglers do, too.”

Learn – January 2022

Learning confidence heading into a new year

When asked “How have you learned to have confidence going into 2022?” Wranglers Kevin, Robert, Mariann, and Lisa shared ideas that were more grand than simple tips…they were wise insights.

While confidence is thought of as an individual trait, Wranglers also emphasized the role of family, friends, and social contacts as key to their sense of confidence.

Kevin summarized the group’s thoughts when he said, “Don’t be afraid to learn new things.” Words to live by.

Kevin believes his confidence will increase when the pandemic is over. “I will be able to take care of my family then,” he said, elaborating with examples of being able to get together with them, socialize with them, and such, all of which produces a better outlook and optimism. He learned that video calls, writing notes, and making calls are not substitutes for family time, but they help fill the gaps in contact created by the current conditions.

Lisa agreed. Being with, around, and in contact with her extended family is crucial and she believes her confidence improves with that contact.

Mariann said that she is learning to feel more positive about herself, and feeling that way improves her confidence. “I have things to learn and work to do,” she said. After some thoughtful consideration, she said, “I come to New Danville ready to take on the day and forget the past.” Kevin noted, “Mariann seems to get stronger every day.”

“Expect greatness every day,” Robert said. “Understand that the road of life is not just for the mountaintops; it is the whole road. Learn while in the dips so you can understand the top,” he remarked, reminding the group that learning that perspective will definitely affect confidence.

Learning something as complicated as confidence is certain to come with challenges and hurdles. These Wranglers easily identified the biggest impediment to their learning.

Kevin: “Do it without giving up.”

Lisa: “Have faith in yourself.”

Robert: “See it in yourself before others will be able to see it in you.”

Mariann:  “Have faith in who you are.”

Learn: Dec 2021

Scholarships Keep the Learning Going

Great things happen with just a few extra days spent at New Danville. Several months ago, the Assistance League of Montgomery County (ALMC) provided assistance to two Wranglers, enabling them to attend day habilitation programs more often. What difference does a day (or several) make?  A lot.

According to Barb Michels, of ALMC’s Special Needs Scholarship Committee, “Assistance League of Montgomery County is proud to have awarded Justin and Ashley scholarships, enabling them to continue to pursue their goals. We are pleased to enjoy a partnership with New Danville as we work together to improve the lives of the people of Montgomery County.” Lives can be improved in many different ways.

Justin was featured in a previous issue of The Wrangler Gazette when he and his mother were able to share some of their story as an inspiration to others. For all the progress cited in the story, it has continued, thanks to ALMC support.

Nicole Martinez, program coordinator, recently cited several areas of noticeable improvement for Justin. “He continues to come out of his shell and socialize more. I am most pleased to see that he is advocating for himself now.  That is a huge step for adults with IDD.”

According to an article by Katherine Owen and Jackie Downer, and published by the University of Hertfordshire in 2002, “Self-advocacy is one of the most important ways in which people with intellectual disabilities have a voice of their own…This is important because it is directly linked to building confidence and self-esteem.”

Justin’s mother has noticed a difference, too.  She said, “It is apparent to me that Justin feels a deeper connection to others this time around. He has developed a sense of community and can remember the names of people that he refers to as his friends. He is also learning some skills – like sewing – that are completely new to him. 

Overall, we are both deeply grateful to both the Assistance League and New Danville for the opportunity he has been given this year. The sense of community and connection that he now has is priceless.”

Nicole shared that Ashley is also coming out of her shell, citing her involvement in meditation class, as well as others. “We realized how far Ashley has come when she agreed to be part of the group photo at the recent building dedication.” The new building is home to the pallet-production team that is part of the “Pallets to Partners” program with New Danville and Charbonneau Industries. Ashley is a member of the team but has typically shied away from having her photograph taken or participating in group events.  “That was a big sign of growth,” Nicole said.

Learn – November 2021

“It is not knowledge, but the act of learning, not possession but the act of getting there, which grants the greatest enjoyment.” – Carl Friedrich Gauss

Fall brings the change in leaves, switch from daylight savings time, and change of classes available at New Danville. Some are new and some are golden oldies.

At the core of all the classes is the desire to bring activities and experiences that encourage growth, learning, socialization, independence, and, of course, FUN.

Some of the popular “old classics” that are returning to the schedule after a bit of a hiatus include culinary arts and creative drama. New additions that provide good times, as well as learning, include, Around the World in 30 Days, Let’s Meditate and Dance. Nicole Martinez, the program coordinator, said, “The class Hoop There It Is! caught the attention of the Wranglers.  They are very excited about the class.  It seems like everyone wants to be part of it.”

According to Bryan Gill, program manager, “It is good, and important, to mix things up a bit, but not too often and not too much. Our Wranglers enjoy variety and are comfortable with the routine.  We just don’t want to become too routine. We strive for that perfect balance. By working with the offerings, Wranglers get to choose what interests them the most while being involved in the ongoing act of learning.”

Learn – October 2021

Wranglers are stepping into staff offices, engaging visitors, and stopping people in the halls to share the artwork they made in newly re-energized art classes. A variety of new art projects have already captured the interest of Wranglers and there is much more to come.

“Our team has always stepped up to help in any class in any way they can, but we are fortunate to have a new direct support professional whose career includes personal involvement in various art forms, as well as teaching art,” said new program manager, Bryan Gill.

Jamie Glass recently joined our team of direct support professionals, bringing years of experience immersed in the arts as a creator and teacher in both the performing and visual arts. She believes the objective is not to create ‘pretty’ art, but to create. She wants Wranglers to grow with the range of experiences while they use all their senses. “We might go for a walk on campus and do nature rubbings, or blow paint across a piece of paper. Creating art should be experiences the Wranglers enjoy,” she said.

Future plans include a ballet class, a campus art project of painted garbage cans and other exciting options that help art become a more active form of communication, expression and voice for Wranglers, as well as a lot of fun!

Learn – September 2021

According to the manufacturers of Cricut cutting machines, “Our dream has been to help people lead creative lives by providing tools to make their do-it-yourself projects beautiful, fun, and easy. When we built our first cutting machine, we saw the potential for a simple yet powerful tool to completely transform the way people think about crafting, designing, and making.” Offer that dream to Wranglers, and you end up with a class that is fast-becoming one of the favorites offered in the day program.

That dream comes true at New Danville thanks to the addition of a Cricut machine to complement art and computer classes. Wranglers develop designs they like, which are then cut out by the machine from many material options. The final products can be applied to items such as notebooks or drink coolers, or serve as standalone art.

“We provide the materials for class projects, like the drink coolers or bags, but if they want to do something other than that, they need to bring in their own product. We encourage the Wranglers to explore options,” said Direct Support Professional Melissa. She added that many students take computer skills class so they can use the Cricut machine to create art.

With such a variety of items that can be cut from various materials, it would seem like picking a favorite would be a challenge. Not so for some Wranglers. Drink coolers!  No, bags. No, art for a shirt.  There are many favorites because there are so many things they can make.

The manufacturer declares that do-it-yourself projects offer “a creative outlet, a therapeutic tool for self-expression, and a way to give and connect to others.” As important as those outcomes are in a general sense, they are more important to the Wranglers. With the holiday season coming up, there may be a lot of Cricut-made art shared by Wranglers with families and friends.

Learn – August 2021

It is unanimous. Each Wrangler who participated in a recent trip to NASA Johnson Space Center and Space Center Houston that was sponsored by Texas Special Children’s Project agrees, “I want to go again!” While the trip was fun, it was also informative.

Several Wranglers shared some of what they learned on the special day.

Among the things discovered during the tours was how the race to the moon began with the famous speech by President John F. Kennedy. Caitlin said, “President Kennedy had a big part in launching the space race. He had an important speech.”

The Saturn V rocket impressed many Wranglers. Pam described it as “biiiiiiiiiiiggggg,” as she smiled while describing it. Amy was impressed with the rockets, too. She said she could be an astronaut, “except for the fact that I am afraid of heights.” Jayden, however, said he could be an astronaut, based on a quiz the Wranglers took to see if they were compatible with the characteristics of astronauts.

The realities of life in space surprised many Wranglers. Caitlin said that learning how astronauts eat in space was interesting and space ice cream tastes very good. “That surprised me,” she said. As for the many adventures of astronauts, the Apollo 13 experience moved Ivan the most. “It touched my heart for the astronauts,” he said, “because of how scared they must have been.”

A number of “life in space” realities interested Wranglers, like how astronauts use the bathroom in space, and how they wash their hair. For Amy, learning about how astronauts live in space was the most intriguing information. Caitlin was intrigued about future travel to Mars – “They found water on Mars now.” – while Jayden was excited to hear that NASA plans to return to the moon. Whatever comes next in NASA’s long history of exploration, the Wranglers of New Danville will be cheering them on.

A HUGE Thank You to the Texas Special Children’s Project for making this trip possible!

Join Our Mailing List

For updates about New Danville events, store specials, and more

We respect your privacy.