Inclusive. Dedicated. Driven.
Comm UNITY
A Message from the The Arc of Chester County Executive Director, Jeanne Meikrantz
Hello Friend,

February is a month commonly associated with expressions of love and friendship. The Arc’s mission follows suit, driven to build community that embraces and values all people, equally. Our feature story spotlights two classmates and friends who met in our Arc Preschool and personify acceptance, diversity, and love.

Five-year-old Jackie Guay and Alex Rodolfo, teach us how deep and meaningful friendships are built on finding each other’s true essence. Research studies reinforce how classrooms with a diverse mix of abilities foster tolerance, maturity, leadership, and increased self-esteem. It’s a win-win across the board and is revolutionizing early learning. The Arc is part of that movement, and we’re on track to open more minds and doors in 2020. Read more in the Main Feature.

In that same spirit, we’ve begun planning our biggest signature event, The Arc Bubble Walk, Run, and Fun Day. Save the date for Sunday, May 17 th. This fundraiser builds awareness and brings together our participants, their families, local organizations, and the general public. Last year’s community effort culminated in a record-breaking $100,000 and over 300 total attendees. Walkers and runners gathered at West Goshen Park, amassing miles, funding, and friendships. It’s an event not to be missed and promises more bubbles, fun, and opportunities for sponsorship and group team participation. Registration is open!

Lastly, we’re part of the U.S. Census Champions initiative to help improve the accuracy of minority group representation in the 2020 census. Every ten years the U.S. Census Bureau undertakes the daunting task of counting every person residing in the United States. This data will directly impact funding that helps minority groups such as individuals with disabilities, and their access to supports and services. Our role is to ensure our population has fair representation, by enlisting our Direct Support staffers to help participants complete the census form. Hard copy forms and instructions will reach mailboxes by April 1- Census Day. We’ll keep you posted.

We hope you enjoy the projects and people we’ve spotlighted in our winter edition and it warms the heart. Let’s continue working together to promote love, acceptance, inclusion, and equal opportunities for all. Valentine’s Day is every day at The Arc. Thank you and I’ll see you Around The Arc.

Jeanne Meikrantz
Arc of Chester County Executive Director 
The Arc of Chester County Revolutionizes
Early Learning
Spotlight: Preschoolers Excel in Curriculum Where Children of Diverse Abilities Learn Side by Side

Pictured: The Arc of Chester County preschoolers Jackie Guay (L) and Alex Rodolfo (R) are classmates and friends who met at The Arc, where children with and without disabilities learn side by side. The pair are excelling in friendships and academics where they learn from both teacher & one another.


Five-year-old Jackie skips through the doors of The Arc Preschool en route to class. She enters Ms. Sandi’s classroom and beams brighter than her pink shirt, when she spots classmate and friend Alex. The feeling is mutual, evident by the smile that flashes across Alex’s face and lights the room. Jackie darts over to the toy section and returns a few minutes later with two music CDs. She models what she’s learned from The Arc Preschool Teacher, Sandi George, and presents Alex with a choice in each hand. Alex opens his eyes wide when he notices the Frozen soundtrack. He points to Jackie’s left hand and she giggles intuitively guessing Alex’s favorite.

The pair have bonded over shared favorites, especially story time and music, but their connection transcends oral communication. Jackie and Alex met in an Arc classroom where children with and without disabilities, learn and excel side by side. Alex is a student who uses a device to communicate and is as outgoing and friendly as his talkative pal Jackie. The Arc Preschool fosters a culture where kids learn both in the classroom and from one another.

Lauren Rodolfo, wasn’t fully aware of her son Alex’s friendship with Jackie until observing it firsthand at The Arc’s Bubble Walk/Run fundraiser event. “This cute little girl spotted Alex out of a huge crowd. She was looking for him and I could see on Alex’s face how excited he was to see her. Then they high fived. Alex can’t easily go up to kids in his wheelchair, so he relies on others taking that initiative.”

Jackie Guay wears ponytails that are as bouncy as her personality. She wasn’t a stranger to The Arc as her older sister, with a vision impairment, attended the preschool program first. Genelle Guay, Jackie’s mother adds, “Jackie would beg to tag along with her sister and go to school. When she was finally old enough, we signed her up for The Arc’s two-year-old program. She’s always loved it here and I’m not surprised she hit it off with Alex. The kids all feel supported. If you want someone to love your child like you do, The Arc is the place to go.” 

Today, Jackie and Alex are veteran Preschoolers at The Arc and in their final year. Their bond is evident as Jackie jockeys for a seat near Alex before cooking class begins. A few moments earlier the duo was in the reading nook where Jackie read a shared favorite aloud to her longtime pal. “Alex’s verbal skills are limited and that helps teach kids to find other ways to learn about people. You must figure out what you have in common and learn you can have fun together no matter how someone may “present” themselves. You learn the true essence of someone when you can’t rely on words to get to know them,” adds Lauren Rodolfo, Alex’s mom.

Each week the students are exposed to curriculum utilizing technology from Smart Boards to iPads, and includes math, science, reading, music, art, dance/yoga, cooking, and both offsite and onsite exploration such as the mobile library and field trips. Today Ms. Sandi discusses the steps in making fruit salad and assigns each child a task in line with their skill set. Music from The Wiggles plays in the background reinforcing how fruit salad is “yummy yummy.” Jackie is instructed to cut apples and is also teacher’s helper. Alex slices bananas with an aide’s assistance. A classmate with a neuromotor challenge and partial to large hair-bows, focuses on fruit’s sensory elements of smell, taste, and texture.

Next, Ms. Sandi asks each child questions commiserate with their level of knowledge, from identifying fruit colors to more advanced spelling and phonetics. Jackie raises her hand enthusiastically and orally answers questions. Alex beams when empowered through multiple-choice. A classmate with pink eyeglasses clicks on her iPad and smiles as it gives voice to the correct answer. Each child is excited to share their knowledge. The curriculum keeps them engaged while supporting their individual learning path and success.

Sandi George came to The Arc with an Undergraduate degree in Elementary Education and Master’s in Special Education. “I resonate with The Arc philosophy because it’s about making interacting with all disabilities a priority. It’s important. There’s a misconception out there that attention given to kids with disabilities takes away from the typical kid’s experience and learning. What’s happening in our classrooms every day dispels that thinking,” says George. Research data supports that inclusive classrooms do not hinder the academic achievement of typical students and may have social and developmental advantages for students both with and without disabilities.

Ms. Sandi often enlists Jackie and other children without disabilities in the class as teacher’s helper. Studies concur that “typical peers who learn through sharing and demonstration are likely to increase in self-esteem, confidence, autonomy, and leadership skills." Ms. Sandi creates scenarios where classmates engage in activities together, and learn how to communicate, teach, and help one another. “The kids don’t see disability here. The children model behaviors where they can apply what they learn and help each other grow,” says George. 

  The preschool day winds down and the students are prepared for parent pick up and bus rides home. Jackie and Alex will say a final goodbye to The Arc at preschool graduation. “I’ve seen Jackie’s self-confidence grow since she’s been at The Arc. She’s learning to go outside her comfort zone,” says Genelle Guay. Alex’s mom, Lauren Rodolfo, shares similar sentiments and notes Alex’s academic and interpersonal growth.

Fellow preschool parents agree as reflected in the preschool’s 35% growth this past year. Under the leadership of Preschool Director Sarah Kuser, the school opened a new classroom in 2019 and plans on continuing to grow the program. “There’s a shift in the educational system toward inclusive learning and it’s revolutionizing how children learn and engage in the world. It’s a win-win for students of all abilities. We hope to expand our reach with more funding and support and are thrilled with the success of this year’s class,” adds Kuser.   

Jackie and Alex are on track to successfully graduate in August. They will leave behind their beloved preschool but take with them the tools, friendships, and experience they’ve built there. The kids will be ready to move on but based on the friendships made by both adults and children alike, there won’t be a dry eye in the room.

For more information on The Arc of Chester County Preschool or revolutionary learning, contact Preschool Director Sarah Kuser at 610 696-8090 ext. 217. Join the movement! Help open minds and doors for children of all abilities to learn and thrive together by spreading the word or donating to The Arc of Chester County’s Preschool.
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Did You Know?
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Did You Know you can test and try out a variety of assistive technology and communications devices on site at The Arc under the guidance of highly trained therapists? Free service to all Chester County residents with intellectual disabilities, age 21 and older. Try it before you buy it, schedule an appointment at 610 696-8090; email ATresources@arcofchestercounty.org .
 
Did You Know registration is open to enroll in The Arc Preschool 2020-2021 program? The Arc offers tours and open enrollment year-round, but families are encouraged to secure their child’s spot today. Call The Arc Preschool Director Sarah Kuser to register or schedule a visit at 610 696-8090 ext. 217.
 
Do you have a loved one in need of assistance with in-home and community supports such as life skills, companionship, respite, or other related services? Did You Know Agency with Choice (AWC) provides support and empowers YOU to choose your own service worker? A favorite Aunt, neighbor, or friend already aiding as your family support could qualify. Call The Arc AWC Director Gary Johnson-McNutt to learn more at 610 696-8090 ext. 241.
 
Did You Know  The Arc has a job placement program and partners with over 40 local businesses, matching our program participants with best fit employers? Comprehensive Employment Services (CES) provides recruitment of qualified applicants, customized learning tools, and extensive on-the-job training at no expense to the employer. Call The Arc CES Director Rita Mandik at 610 696-8090 ext. 262 for more information.
 
Does your school aged child/student have an Individualized Education Plan? Did You Know that f amilies who earn under $70k annually are eligible for FREE Education Advocate services to help you navigate the entire process? The Arc ensures your child's success by identifying supports he/she needs for success in school. Call The Arc Advocacy Admin. April Hawkins at 610 696-8090 ext. 216 to learn more.
 
Did You Know The Arc hosts recreational events from local fun to weekend excursions, and even a 5-day cruise? Enjoy activities including in-house karaoke and dance parties; to movies, bowling, and sports game trips. Private pay (out of pocket) and open to adults age 18 and older. Caregivers can enjoy peace of mind and self-time with The Arc’s 1:5 staff to participant ratio, while loved ones engage with new friends and experiences. Don’t miss February’s popular Valentine’s Day Dance, 2/12 at The Arc! Call The Arc Recreation Coordinator Lori Meyers at 610 696-8090 ext. 205 for more information.
 
Did You Know  The Arc of Chester County Advocates Society was established to recognize individuals and couples who've made provisions in their estate plans to provide a gift to The Arc of Chester County, for the benefit of their community? Have you already established The Arc of Chester County in a legacy plan? Please let us know so we can properly record your generous plan and gift. Call The Arc Development Director Karen DiVincenzo at 610 696-8090 ext. 202. 
2020-2021 Arc Preschool Registration Open
Revolutionary Learning at The Arc of Chester County Preschool - REGISTER TODAY!

Enrollment is open for The Arc of Chester County Preschool 2020-2021 Program. A fully inclusive preschool program (ages 3-5) where preschool students with and without disabilities learn and grow together.

Students benefit from a research-based curriculum, lessons targeted to each child, technology from Smart Boards to iPads, and small teacher to student ratios. Research data shows early-learning inclusive classrooms offer a variety of advantages including social and developmental advantages. The Arc Preschool is a leader in revolutionary learning and working with children to help them achieve the next steps in their development.

For more information, or to set up a tour, contact Sarah Kuser at skuser@arcofchestercounty.org or call 610-696-8090 x 217.

SAVE THE DATE:
The Arc Bubble Walk, Run & Fun Event
Sunday, May 17th
Grab your sneakers and run or walk for The Arc of Chester County! Your participation and pledges help support services for individuals with disabilities and their families. Funds from the event empower community where people of all abilities are valued, equally.

The 5k Bubble Run takes you through West Goshen Township neighborhoods. Not a runner? Enjoy the Bubble Walk with your family and friends and complete a 1 mile loop around West Goshen Community Park’s paved trail. The trail will be lined with bubble machines for you and your family to enjoy!

Registration opens 8:00 AM. Run/Walk begins 9:00 AM.
Registration fee includes T-shirt & drawstring bag. PLUS Additional event activities: DJ tunes to get you moving, Face Painting, Donut Decorating, Selfie Booth, and of course... Bubbles!  

Sponsors and volunteers needed! Call The Arc Development Director Karen DiVincenzo at 610 696-8090 ext. 202 to 'walk the walk' and join The Arc today.

Click here to register for the event! Early bird pricing: $5 off registration fee if you sign up by March 20th! Use promo code EarlyBird
The mission of The Arc of Chester County is to advocate, educate and provide services to empower individuals with disabilities and their families to enhance the quality of their lives.  The official registration and financial information of The Arc of Chester County may be obtained from the Pennsylvania Department of State by calling toll free within Pennsylvania 1-800-732-0999. Registration does not imply endorsement. The Arc of Chester County is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization—contributions to which are tax deductible to the fullest extent permitted by law.

 The Arc of Chester County is affiliated with The Arc of Pennsylvania, The Arc of The United States, and The United Way.
Phone: 610-696-8090
900 Lawrence Drive
West Chester, PA 19380
Fax: 610-696-8300