Mike from Star Lane, smiling as always.

Living Well is thrilled to partner with Inver Hills Community College’s Intercultural Communication Class for the sixth year in a row, bringing back the Thursday Social Club for the second year. This unique program offers opportunities for communications students to host and facilitate a social-recreation club on campus for two hours each Thursday from February – April.

The class is exclusive to Living Well and the people we support, which makes it more intimate, and creating ample opportunity for one-on-one interaction. Last year they had speakers, played games, went on campus tours, made cards, painted, prepared and enjoyed healthy snacks, and most importantly—people made new friends! It was such a success that Inver Hills Community College even won the Living Well Community Partner Dreammaker Award (read about that here).

Part of the Casey and Carmen Crew.

Everyone involved is dedicated to making the program a success, and passionate about providing awareness and inclusion. Dr. Amy Zsohar, Speech Communication Instructor, helped create the program and folded it into her curriculum. Even though the first class was just on Thursday, she is already seeing an amplified vision for the semester. Dr. Zsohar says, “The one thing I keep thinking in my head is that it is going to be bigger and better than last year. We were intentional with the growth. And because I know what is going on a little better after having launched it last year, I am more confident. Which means the students are, too.”

Dr Zsohar and Kathy at the 2024 Gala.

Dr. Zsohar worked with Shannon Williams, Community-Based Learning Coordinator, along with Living Well Volunteer Manager, Kathy Anderson, and Joey Peterson, Occasional APM at Kennelly and Thursday Social Club’s Program Lead, to make strong conscious choices to give students more training ahead of the first class.

Students came to class excited, no one was nervous, and everyone had a blast. Including one student who overheard the fun from the hallway. As Dr. Zsohar was leaving class a student not enrolled in the class, who was out in the hallway hearing all the fun inside, approached her and asked if it was a club. She kind of chuckled to herself, and reported that it was indeed a club, but actually a class.

She says, “I don’t think anyone would have thought that was going to happen when we started this a few years ago. People in the hallway being jealous of what we are doing in class. Asking how they can join. I can guarantee there is no other class that happened to on Thursday.”

Dr. Zsohar has been teaching this class for 15 years and wants her students to know they have agency, advocacy and allyship in everything they do. She says her students are in a community they can build, or distance themselves from, and this group wants to be in it. She laughed and said, “The students were actually kind of annoyed class was over. There was laughter and joy around the process. The students are already more engaged because we know better what to expect.”

Volunteer Manager, Kathy Anderson, says, “I’m delighted to see everyone together for our second year of The Thursday Social Club. The new class of students are fully engaged and I’m looking forward to their growth in disability awareness while providing fun interactions with people Living Well supports. It’s win – win!”

Joey and Elliott, at right, with students.

Joey Peterson, says, “I’m so excited to be a part of the Inver Hills Social Club again this year! This partnership expands the knowledge of inclusion to the participating Inver Hill’s students and gives the Living Well participants another avenue to have their opinions and voices heard in the community. The students will be able to think outside the box to create meaningful experiences for the individuals we serve.”

Freya and Shannon having FUN.

Freya Gayken, Assistant Program Manager at Selkirk, says, “What we really liked last year was the interaction with the college students. We are looking forward to building new connections with the students and participating in the great activities they provide, especially when there is music involved! Shannon who lives at Selkirk, really enjoyed people chatting with her and feeling included in the group. She makes her presence known through her vocalizations, but it’s nice when people acknowledge and engage with her even though they can’t communicate through a common language.” She adds, “I think social club has benefits in that it provides a safe place for our people to meet new people, outside of staff and other people supported, and just have fun. And it also allows for the students to not only learn about but engage with people with disabilities and then take what they learn and apply it to their lives and future careers. What these connections do is impact policy, increase inclusion, and, in some cases, become lasting friendships for our people supported! I highly recommend anyone at Living Well homes who has an individual home during the week to come and check it out!”

As you can see, it is a love fest over there. We couldn’t be prouder of the value of these relationships and want to share them with our supporters.

 

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Interested in information on homes and openings? Email Rod at rod.carlson@livingwell.org.