As Michael Wisher finishes his last year at Tappan Hill School, his mother, Justine Riordan, has been investigating adult programs and thinking a lot about what he will do when he turns 21 and leaves Southern Westchester BOCES.
Michael, who is in Erroll Rivera’s class for students with multiple disabilities, is passionate about laundry and washing machines. Sometimes his mother takes him to a laundromat just to wash a load of laundry. One of Michael’s favorite Halloween costumes is a washing machine. And Michael, whose nickname is Mikeymo, likes to pour his drinks from a cleaned-out bottle of laundry detergent.
Ms. Riordan put a post on Facebook, asking friends to contribute to a new laundry program at the school called “Mikeymo’s Laundry Service.” Within days, she had about $3,750 in donations, enough to purchase a washing machine, dryer, supplies and additional funding for the program. Each child who participates will receive a Mikeymo’s Laundry Service T-shirt.
“Folding laundry will not only give them a life skill, which many adult programs embrace, it will also help fine motor skills in the hands to fold clothes,” she wrote on social media.
The laundry service is one part of Tappan Hill School’s “Essentials for Learning” vocational program, which will help middle and high school students develop some of the skills they will need to enter the workforce. The others are the office and silk flower programs.
“I feel extraordinarily grateful to Justine Riordan for all her work in helping develop the laundry program for all the students,” said Phyllis Rizzi, principal of Tappan Hill School.
The goal of the laundry program is to give the young adults the skills and targeted vocabulary they will need to complete laundry independently. The laundry cabinet is stocked full of detergent, dryer sheets, paper towels, Mikemo T-shirts and pails with Elmo on them (Mikey’s favorite Muppet character).
“It was important to me to give them a better quality of life,” Ms. Riordan said of the Tappan Hill students. “I needed to prepare not just my son, but all the other kids.”
She has committed to keeping this program and all its supplies stocked for five years after Michael ages out in June.
In the office program, students perfect light office skills like stuffing envelopes, laminating and shredding paper. They also sort items, deliver school supplies, and package single or multiple items.
Students in the silk flower program design single or multiple bouquets with donated flowers. They also create decoupage vases using bottles and tissue paper. They deliver the personalized bouquets to recipients.
Another component of “Essentials for Learning” is Tappan Hill students work with adult mentors who are part of the Volunteer New York! RISE (Readiness thru Integrated Service Engagement) program. Supervised adults visit Tappan Hill to work with students on projects and help them build work skills.
Mr. Rivera’s vocational class is working with Volunteer NY mentors to make mini laundry kits for the homeless shelters in Westchester County. So far, they have completed 102 kits to divide among the shelters.