Centura College

Connecting Communities & Careers

Sensory Friendly Santa Spreads Christmas Cheer to all at Centura College

Posted by on Dec 26, 2017 in Campus Connections, Centura Chesapeake, Centura College, Community Connections, Lifestyle, Spotlight Feature

Ashley West and son, Andrew.

By Jul DeGeus and Esperanza Popquiz

 

The holidays can be a challenging time for anyone. In an effort to help those who might need a little extra assistance, Centura College Chesapeake campus held a sensory friendly meet and greet with the one and only, Santa and Mrs. Claus.

We sat down with Campus Executive Director, Ashley West, to learn how the campus worked together to create a magical winter wonderland, for all those to enjoy:

 

What was the inspiration to hold a sensory-friendly event? 

Ashley West: Anyone who knows me knows that there are three things in life that I get exceptionally excited about: My five year old son Andrew, who is autistic, my job, and CHRISTMAS! Personally knowing that the holiday season can be a real challenge for special needs families, we wanted to offer an event that allowed families of all different types to experience the magic of the holidays.

What steps did you take to prepare for the event? 

AW: We began preparations and meetings in early October. Our committee was made up of volunteers. Anyone who was a part of it, was doing so on their own personal time. I truly appreciate the effort and dedication these wonderful people put in to make this a relaxed environment for special needs families. Countless hours went into decorating the wonderland, which included: three decked out Christmas trees, dozens and dozens of presents, inflatable characters and wrapping paper that covered every inch of the walls! We also spent a lot of time researching what kinds of activities and spaces would be most enjoyable to children on the autism spectrum and with other special needs. This resulted in us creating a quiet room; a room with low lighting, minimal sounds and a space to lay down or read a book. If any member of the family wanted to take a break from the hustle and bustle of our Santa’s Workshop, we made sure that they had that opportunity. In addition, each member of the committee attended a training session conducted by an autism support professional.  We wanted to be sure that everyone was comfortable and prepared to best support these children and their families. From this training, we developed holiday activities, like sensory boxes (tubs with things like tinsel, slime and macaroni for the kids to feel textures) and cotton ball-snowman crafts. Obviously, we had to include Santa’s favorite cuisine, so there was plenty of milk and cookies for everyone to enjoy!

How did your staff react when learning about how to interact with children at the event?

AW: It was such a cool thing to watch the staff learn about some of the intricacies of working with special needs families. Many of them had not had any previous experience with the families, yet they all asked the exact questions that needed to be asked. I think lots of people try to promote awareness, but I’ve always said that awareness isn’t enough; what we’re really working toward is acceptance. The training we brought in helped the staff of Centura College Chesapeake campus to understand and accommodate the needs of every family that walked through our door. This made such a huge impact for our guests, moving us one step closer to our goal of acceptance.

Why is it important for Centura College to hold events like this for the community? 

AW: We’re not just a tagline of “Connecting Communities and Careers.” We mean it!  We want to serve all members of the community. As an autism mom, I can tell you that there’s a huge need for quality services and events for people who may need some additional considerations. We wanted to help be a part of the solution, so we’re also exploring program offerings to help train in a career supporting families with special needs. While special needs families are near and dear to my heart, I know that everyone has a specific cause that they cheer for. In 2018, we are hoping to highlight and showcase events that bring awareness, acceptance and actions of the causes we hold dear in our heart.

If you want to find out how you can help spread awareness and acceptance, or want to learn more about Centura College, Chesapeake campus, call 757.549.2121 or visit centuracollege.edu.

Centura College to Hold Sensory Friendly Holiday Event

Posted by on Dec 2, 2017 in Adult Education, Campus Connections, Centura Chesapeake, Centura College, Community Connections, Press Release

The Chesapeake campus of Centura College will be holding a sensory friendly holiday celebration on December 15th. Attendees will be able to take advantage of free photo opportunities with Santa, along with enjoying seasonal activities and refreshments, all in a sensory friendly environment.

By Brian Stauss

Centura College will be holding a special sensory friendly holiday celebration on Friday, December 15 at its Chesapeake campus located at 932 Ventures Way, Chesapeake, VA. Festivities begin at 1 p.m. and will continue until 6 p.m.

During this family-friendly event, attendees will be able to get free pictures taken with Santa. Santa will arrive at 2:30pm for photo opportunities. The campus will be providing milk and cookies, along with other holiday-themed snacks.  Additionally, there will be sensory friendly activities available for children. Additional information can be found at https://www.facebook.com/events/529383557421968/.

“The holiday season really is the most wonderful time of the year. My five year old son is on the autism spectrum, so I intimately understand the challenges that the holidays can bring to special needs families,” says Ashley West, Campus Executive Director at Centura College’s Chesapeake campus. “We wanted to host an event where every families in our community could have the opportunity to enjoy some holiday cheer in an environment that is both warm and inclusive.”

This event is free and open to the public. The campus will also be accepting reservations for personalized time with Santa, for families that believe their children would do better in a less crowded setting.

“We understand that some kids may appreciate a little more privacy with their Santa experience, so we are offering a limited number of appointments to meet those needs,” continues West.  “We truly want to provide the best experience for everyone!”

For more information regarding Centura College’s sensory friendly holiday event and to schedule an appointment with Santa, contact the Chesapeake campus at (757) 549-2121.

About Centura College

Centura College has been part of an organization dedicated to helping men and women develop careers since 1969. By training working adults in healthcare, technology, business, and trades, they connect communities with some of the fastest growing career fields in today’s marketplace. The school offers professional facilities, knowledgeable instructors, day or evening classes, job placement assistance and is accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC). To learn more, visit www.CenturaCollege.edu or like them on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/centura.edu.

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