The Elgin crew painting.

Living Well is thrilled to be partnering with Inver Hills Community College’s Intercultural Communication Class for the fifth year, this time creating an exciting new program—The Thursday Social Club. This program offers opportunities for students to host and facilitate a social-recreation club on campus each Thursday from 10:30-12:30PM. This exciting new class is exclusive to Living Well and the people we support in our group homes or through customized services, which makes it more intimate and provides more one on one attention. So far, they’ve played games, gone on campus tours, made cards, painted, ate healthy snacks, and most importantly—everyone has made new friends! Just yesterday Peggy from 3801 told one student to come volunteer at her house, and another student spoke to Volunteer Program Manager, Kathy Anderson, about applying for a job.

Inclusive gym bowling.

This 10-week collaboration makes for a beautiful partnership for many reasons. At the top of our list is that when Covid closed day programs three years ago, upon reopening many were restructured leaving many people with disabilities without activities to do during the day. Inver Hills filled a void in services and offered to host and fold the program into curriculum. It is a win for all involved. The 15 students in class are empowered to take the lead and learn in person communications techniques through lived experience. And the individuals from our homes are able to learn from, interact with, and be a part of the class. It is another example of what inclusion can look like in practice within a community setting.

Joey, Kathy, Shannon and Dr. Zsohar.

The team at Inver Hills loves the program almost as much as we do. Dr. Amy Zsohar, Speech Communication Instructor says, “Partnering with Living Well is one of my favorite partnerships. Each Spring, students from Intercultural Communication get to form relationships with the people served from Living Well. This semester we have been hosting weekly social clubs. These social clubs have become a highlight of the week. The students get to challenge themselves to practice their communication skills each week with the different guests. It has been such fun to watch the students overcome their hesitancies of working with this population. Their growth has been incredible to watch!” And Shannon Williams, Community-Based Learning Coordinator, says, “Living Well is an amazing partner that goes above and beyond to co-create learning projects for our students. Kathy is engaged with the class from beginning to end, from coming to campus to give a group volunteer orientation to attending the last class to help students reflect on what they learned from their engagement with Living Well. I love to see relationships built between residents and students each semester. Students are learning so much more than just communication skills.

Mary Adele with water colors.

Crews from Living Well also have amazing things to say. Joey Peterson, Occasional APM at Kennelly and Thursday Social Club’s Program Lead, says, “The Inver Hills Social club can give students an opportunity to see individuals who have a disability differently from the stereotypes that often follow them. Engaging one-on-one in activities with individuals can open student’s mind and imagination to new understandings, relationships and possibilities for a more inclusive tomorrow.” Peggy, who lives at 3801 says, “I love that I get to mingle with the college students. I got to speak about my R-Word video, Offense Taken. And make new friends.” Nicole Smith, DSP from Mary Adele says, “It’s nice for the younger generation to get involved with disability services and work. Before I started 11 years ago, I had no idea, this feels important.” Her coworker Jayme Brabant, adds, “It’s nice to get the guys out of the house and into community.” And Program Manager at Elgin, Chinatu Ejodamen, says about the painting workshop yesterday, “It is very important for the people we serve, especially those that do not have day program to go to, to engage in an activity outside the usual home setting and see other people.”

The Thursday Social Club Crew!

Living Well Volunteer Program Manager, Kathy Anderson, is delighted by the evolution of this partnership, and says, “My favorite thing about it is connecting people with the students, because of the time of life the students are at. They are learning about their place in the world and with this class get to meet people with disabilities. We now have 15 more young adults that have a better idea about disability and disability culture, which they can take with them throughout their lives.” She loves that the people we support are having fun, meeting people, getting to have a variety of experiences, and have access to even more fun stuff outside of their home, in an integrated setting.

Dr. Zsohar, Shannon, Kathy and Mary at the Campus Compact Presidents’ Community Partner Award ceremony in 2019.

Living Well is proud to have worked with Inver Hills Community College since 2018. Over the past five years the partnership has grown and changed significantly, with each year all parties learning a bit more about the mission and vision for the collaboration. These last few weeks are the result of lots of planning and hard work, and so much inclusion and learning that it warms the heart.

While the 10-week program wraps next Thursday, the partnership continues. We are looking forward to meeting with another class of students and emerging leaders next year, and plans are already in place for a sixth incredible year of student collaboration. Thanks to everyone at Inver Hills! All of us at Living Well look forward to many more incredible classes and enrichment activities.