Last week we introduced you to Secondhand Hounds, our Volunteer Dreammaker Award winner who will be celebrated at the Transforming Lives Gala on August 18. This week we want to tell you about our Community Partner Dreammaker award winners—the team at Inver Hills Community College.

Living Well was thrilled to partner with Inver Hills Community College’s Intercultural Communication Class for the fifth year last spring, this time creating an exciting new program—The Thursday Social Club. This program offered opportunities for students to host and facilitate a social-recreation club on campus throughout the spring semester. This new class was exclusive to Living Well and the people we support, which made it more intimate and provided extra one on one attention. They played games, toured campus, made crafts, enjoyed and prepared healthy snacks, and most importantly—everyone made new friends! One of the students, Jake, loved his time with Living Well so much that he applied and now works at our Kennelly house!

Patti, Tom, Peggy and Jake.

When asked what made him apply Jake had this to say, “Peggy was my greatest inspiration to apply. She always sat next to me and hardly wanted to socialize with anyone else. And I have a soft spot for Patti and Becky, and the Assistant Program Manager, Tom, at the house I ended up working at.”  He continued, “What I love about this job is that I get to work with people that are different than me, and who give me insight into what it is like to live with various disabilities. I have disabilities myself, and it gives me a deeper perspective to see how we all navigate this together.” He is finishing his last semester at Inver Hills this fall and will then head to UMD where he plans to study to be a criminologist.

Dr. Amy Zsohar, Speech Communication Instructor and program lead, says, “Partnering with Living Well offers an incredible opportunity for the students of Intercultural Communication to build community in ways they don’t usually get offered. I have watched students, over the years, not just practice their communication skills, but make connections and grow as people. I am so incredibly proud of the projects Shannon, Kathy and I have created.” Adding, “Receiving this award is such a true honor. I am grateful for all the time and community I get to have with Living Well and the friends we have made through this partnership.”

Shannon Williams Community-Based Learning Coordinator, agrees, “Living Well is one of the most gracious and collaborative partners I’ve ever worked with. Kathy and her team partner with us as co-educators, not only providing opportunities for service-learning for our students but also coming to class for training and reflection, connecting us with educational resources, and so much more. The friendships we have developed with Living Well are the most rewarding part, and knowing we are making a difference in the lives of the folks in both of our organizations.” Shannon adds, “Thank you so very much for this tremendous honor. I know you work with many community partners; this recognition is very special. I appreciate our partnership more than I can express in words. I am so deeply appreciative of this recognition and our partnership.”

Dr. Zohar leading the program last spring.

As you can see our partnership has been super impactful and the connections Inver Hills fosters with people we support, and students are priceless. Dr. Zsohar’s ability to seamlessly welcome Living Well every spring, to foster relationships and to teach communication styles as well as disability culture, is beyond amazing. Besides making friends in the moment and increasing self-awareness and creative expression, life-long disability advocates were born. It was so incredible we are hoping to replicate the program with other colleges.

We are beyond grateful, as this is what we strive for when partnering with people and organizations! We look forward to celebrating Inver Hills Community College on August 18, 2023, at our Transforming Lives Gala. For more information, click here.


(The Community Partner Dreammaker award Honors an individual or organization whose work in the community has made a significant difference in the lives of the people we serve.)