Xperience: The Bridge That Connects
The Arc Jacksonville’s Xperience program provides enrichment for young adults in the community with I/DD. Located at Shepherd of The Woods Lutheran Church, participants engage in hands-on learning, socialization and community volunteerism Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Xperience program director, Suizzy Leonhard, describes Xperience as the bridge that connects participants and their next phase of life.
“Through our program we try to help support their goals and give them tools to get to the next level,” she said.
When participants enter the Xperience program, they create personal goals with the help of a support coordinator or guardian. Some of their goals consist of employment, increasing social skills, weight loss and living independently.
The program teaches participants skills focused on their goals. Through a combination of classroom-based discussions and hands-on activities in the community, the program gives practical application of social, job, life and wellness skills.
Mock scenarios are created for participants so that their skills are applied in the community. This may include a trip to the laundry mat to learn how to wash clothes, or working with a mock budget to purchase items for an apartment.
Leonhard makes sure that at least two hours of their day are spent doing something hands-on in the community. She stresses the idea of community inclusiveness.
“Participants really enjoy community outings, exercising at the YMCA, cooking classes and volunteering at Shepherd of the Woods Lutheran School,” said Leonhard. As the program name dictates, participants learn through experience. Therefore, in all their outings something is to be learned.
“Once a month we go out for lunch,” Leonhard said. “They learn about picking healthy choices, budgeting, pricing the food, going through the menus and tipping.”
The hands-on learning has proved to be a success. Leonhard has seen consistent improvements in participants. Some participants have found community employment, others have become more social and independent while some have become health conscious through weight loss and improved healthy eating habits.
Leonhard also expressed how welcoming the community has been of the Xperience program. Accommodating private computer classes and donating food for Xperience cooking classes are just a few ways the community has given a helping hand to the program.
“We are well received by the community and it’s nice to feel welcomed,” she said.
Written by Alex McClain, Development VISTA