In early December, youth from CIRCLE Academy-Vermilion (CAV) went on a special school trip - to see Wonder. A movie based on the New York Times bestseller, Wonder tells the incredibly inspiring and heartwarming story of August Pullman, a boy with facial differences who enters fifth grade, attending a mainstream elementary school for the first time.
Do you remember your first job out of high school? And how proud you were to have grownup responsibilities, not to mention your own paycheck? Shane, a 19-year-old young man on the autism spectrum, feels that way and more after successfully completing his first three months of work at a local fast food restaurant. A year ago, after completing high school, neither Shane nor his family had any idea what the future held for him. It was through a referral to Cunningham's Vocational Options program that he not only found employment, but support and hope as well.
For Christmas Eve service this year, Chaplain Gay decorated the worship table in the Spiritual Life Center in a special way -- with a gift she had received from one of our kids. During Wednesday night chapel service earlier this month, 12-year-old Mario* couldn't wait to give it to her.
"Mario ran up to me and said, 'I have something I want to show you,'" Chaplain Gay explained. "He had it wrapped in a gift bag with a note. It was a big deal to him and very, very sweet."
The note read:
Dear Chaplain Gay,
On a recent Monday evening, I pulled on to the Cunningham campus after a spending the day visiting with some of our friends and supporters in the northern part of Illinois Great Rivers Conference. As usual, it was a very satisfying day sharing stories about our kids at Cunningham with people who care deeply about them. But it was also a tiring day. Just two days before, I had made a quick trip to St. Paul, Minnesota and back to see family so I'd seen plenty of windshield time for awhile.
At Jeremy's going-away party last month, it was hard to believe that he was the same child who first entered Cunningham's residential treatment program three years ago. He laughed and exchanged jokes with his peers and was visibly excited when Chaplain Gay asked, "Are you ready to walk the labyrinth?" Jeremy knew that "walking the labyrinth" is a time-honored tradition for Cunningham youth who are ready to move on to new horizons.
Gerber School's art classroom was a hive of activity on Jordan's* first day at Cunningham. In one corner, a girl wearing an over-sized apron hunched over a pottery wheel. Across the room, a boy carefully sketched his favorite superhero, while another fashioned an abstract collage out of magazine photos and scraps of fabric. Jordan was having none of it.
It was a blustery day in early March but Paula Dowling, Assistant Principal at Cunningham’s CIRCLE Academy-Vermillion in Rossville, and Barbara Miller, the school’s Academic Coordinator, hardly noticed because their hearts were warmed by an achievement of one of their students. Daniel, a junior at CIRCLE-Vermilion, was one of more than 190 high school students from 20 area schools chosen to display their artwork at the 8th Annual Eric Show, held at the Illini Union Art Gallery on the University of Illinois campus.