Monday, October 2, 2017

Families with Disabilities Practice Air Travel through "Ready Set Fly"

SAN FRANCISCO, CA--September 30, 2017  by Meredith Manning

Over 140 participants took part in The Arc San Francisco's air travel practice at SFO as guests of “Ready Set Fly,” an on-plane experience designed to help individuals and families with developmental disabilities like autism, Down syndrome and cerebral palsy prepare for the challenges of air travel. 
Many families who have never flown before were nervous but excited to try the practice experience in a safe supported environment designed to help new flyers overcome barriers to visiting relatives outside the region, or even taking that long-awaited trip to the Magic Kingdom.

Toting carry-on suitcases, stuffed animals and an assortment of digital devices, moms, dads and kids started the long day at a pre-boarding workshop with clinical specialists' strategies for success.
Over 40 families joined "Ready Set Fly" at SFO for a day of disability travel education and an on-plane practice aboard a Jetblue aircraft.
Attendees then moved through ticketing, security and on to the gate to board a JetBlue aircraft where they buckled up and got a real feel for air travel through simulated engine sounds and the standard safety demonstration by flight attendants.

“This program is a great way for us to see if our daughter is ready to handle a trip. We just went through security and she was not happy about being separated from her belongings—but she did it,” said Morena Grimalda with daughter Ximena, 18.

“We’re learning new tips today,” said Joo Yui, with son Gabriel, 8, “like how to access the special accommodation security lines through TSA Cares. My goal? Take the kids to Disneyland—and maybe Hawaii someday.”

The Ready Set Fly program, now in its third year, has logged some surprising successes. Returning participant Gladys Silva said that because of the program, her family flew with her 22-year old son to see family in Peru—a 10-hour trip they never thought they could achieve. “The kids learn, the parents learn and the airlines learn,” she said. “We’re back again this year so that we can just normalize flying for our son.”

“All families deserve the opportunity to fly,” said The Arc San Francisco CEO Dr. Glenn Motola, a father who flies with his own children with disabilities. “Just as important as the on-board practice is an understanding of how to prepare. From assessing your child’s tolerances and triggers to understanding airport rules and regulations, families who are prepared will have a much more relaxing, comfortable trip—and that’s our goal.”
Noise-cancelling headphones are helpful to children who have a heightened sensitivity to sound.

SFO Airport Director Ivar Satero said that the program not only gives families the confidence to travel, but also gives his employees the opportunity to understand their role in providing information, accommodations and support to these valuable customers.

Kenneth Johnson, JetBlue SF General Manager, said that seeing families board a plane for the first time was the best reward his team of volunteers could hope for. “These families have dreams of traveling just like everyone else. We’re here to help them achieve those dreams.”

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Cindy's Story: Why I love teaching kids

Cindy talks about the mentor who believed in her and her love of working with kids.
The Laura Vicuña Pre-Kindergarten was started in 1987. It’s the pre-k part of Saints Peter and Paul School in North Beach. It’s a state-licensed nonprofit program with about twenty-five students, named for Blessed Laura Vicuña of Chile. I started going there in 1987 when I was 4 years old in their first pre-k, and Barbara Simons was my teacher.
Barbara taught me how to write my own name, make different projects and play with different kids. Now, as an adult coming back to my old pre-k school, I am teaching the kids how to make different projects, count, good manners, and playing with other children. I help them put together the projects they do, then they take them home and get to show their families.
I’ve been working in pre-k for 12 years and I learn a lot from my coworkers. I love working with the school because I am very patient and it’s not just a job, it’s a passion to work with the kids.
I started as a volunteer. Then my old teacher Barbara Simons saw that I was really good with the kids and she gave me a chance as a teacher’s assistant. With her encouragement I am taking a child development class to get my teaching certificate to be a full time teacher’s assistant.
I love teaching kids to have a good education and good manners so when they graduate and move on to kindergarten they will know how to write their names, make projects, have fun with other kids and learn.

--Cindy, pre-k teacher assistant, college student, Arc client
#lovetolearn #neverstopgrowing


Monday, May 15, 2017

Disability and the Digital Divide: A Different Discussion

By Kristen Pedersen, MPH, VP Education and Workforce Inclusion, The Arc San Francisco

(Photo l-r: Tania Estrada, The Women’s Building; Winnie Yu, Self-Help for the Elderly; Josh Peters, Bay Area Video Coalition)
Most of us take the internet and being constantly connected for granted. Whether ordering dinner online, applying for a job, or refilling a prescription, broadband, high-speed access is critical to everyday life. But many San Franciscans are left off the grid when it comes to internet access—particularly residents with developmental disabilities.  And as tech usage continues to grow, so does the gap in access.
How do we close this digital divide so that everyone has what they need to be connected?

Thanks to our friends at the San Francisco Public Library, I was part of a panel that convened recently during “Digital Inclusion Week” to look at new strategies for better access.
(See video.)

One of the biggest barriers among the individuals with autism, Down syndrome and other developmental disabilities whom we support at The Arc San Francisco is a lack of digital literacy, access to materials and the funds to have data plans or in-home internet. At The Arc, we started a small computer lab at our main campus several years ago, but only when we added classes in Email Basics, How To Search and Internet Safety did we see our clients using the internet in a way that was useful.
With that success, we began to integrate Online Job Search, Creating a Professional Profile and Applying for Employment Online to our suite of computer classes and trainings.  With funding from Comcast NBC Universal, we expanded our class offerings and upgraded our computers.

Today, all of our clients, from young transition age students to retired seniors, are learning to access the information they need to stay connected, engaged and in charge of their own lives. The experience has been life-changing for many of our clients:

  • Tom is able to go online and find free weekend events. He used to stay home most weekends, isolated. But now he checks out free concerts at Golden Gate Park and free movies at the library.
  • Mai has created her LinkedIn profile to complement her new resume so that she can network for the job of her dreams—in a downtown office where “...everyone has important work to do.”
While an estimated 10% of Americans have no way to access the internet, almost 50% of people with developmental disabilities have fallen through the digital divide. But as our City expands its infrastructure for more connectivity, organizations like The Arc SF and the San Francisco Public Library are critical to support the closing of the gap. And we will continue to champion people like Tom and Mai so that they have the skills and experience needed to fully participate in today’s digital world.

Monday, April 10, 2017

My Story, My Dreams

In addition to being an advocate for The Arc San Francisco, Gladys is an ambassador for Best Buddies, a social and recreation nonprofit for individuals with developmental disabilities. Best Buddies’ creates opportunities for one-to-one friendships, integrated employment, and leadership development through friendship, coaching, and mentoring programs.

At a recent Best Buddies event, Gladys was able to share her story with peers and an audience of Best Buddies friends and family. Below is a transcript of the speech she gave. Congratulations on your successful ambassadorship, Gladys!
Hi, thank you for coming.

My name is Gladys Rodriguez. I was born and raised in San Francisco. I’ve been a best buddies ambassador for quite a while. I’m 32 years old. This speech is about my life.

I was born with spina bifida. A nurse told me and my mom when I was 8 years old that I wouldn’t make it to 15. But look at me now, I’m 32 and still fighting for my life.

My senior year of high school, I was failing art class. When I tried to make the required flowerpot, it came out looking like a lopsided water pitcher. As funny as that was, I knew I had to take night classes to graduate from high school. So, that is what I did and I was able to walk across the stage to get my diploma.

My life goals after high school are to get my dream job, get married, and learn how to drive. My dream job is to become an administrative assistant.

I’ve learned I can do anything I set my mind to. I want to learn how to type without making mistakes. I want to get my dream job as an administrative assistant. I hope you will take to heart my story and learn to never give up on your life or your dreams.

Friday, April 7, 2017

2017 WorkLife Awards Honorees

Join The Arc San Francisco’s Business Advisory Council for the 2017 WorkLife Awards celebrating the work and life achievements of clients of The Arc and the employer-partners who champion their success. We are so proud of our honorees recognized for their achievements in the workplace and for the support of their employers. A round of applause for these amazing individuals and companies who will be recognized officially at the WorkLife Awards on May 4, 2017.

2017 Honorees

Employee of the Year: Bryant Wong, Deloitte
New Employee of the Year: Shermaine Escobar, Boston Consulting Group
Core Values Award Winner: Anne Fu, Ghirardelli Chocolate
Intern of the Year: Mira Poon, Project Search, PG&E
Volunteer of the Year: Vadim Vahnshteyn, Muttville Senior Dog Rescue
Employer of the Year: Morrison Foerster
New Employer of the Year: Airbnb
Volunteer Partner of the Year: Seton Medical Center
Industry Awards
Hospitality: Wag Hotels
Professional Services: Cyprus Security
Technology: Mixpanel
Anniversary Winners
THREE YEARS: Michael Look, DeMarcus Myles, Audrey Chien, Dawn Gray, Michelle Reyes, James Glanville, Garrett Sharp, Zelman Helmer, Willy Kwong, Ana Quechol, Elizabeth Leong, Ted Cruz, Sandra Sanchez, Chris Guinto, Susan Ngai, Michelle Yi, Irina Goldshlag, Emma Yungert, Jason Hitchcock, Latoya Mays, Terrell McClanahan, Guo Ren Guan, Jesus Garcia, and Joseph Perada
FIVE YEARS: Thomas Luong, Endora Lau, Jonathan Harrison, Gail Vaughn, Marie Castillo, Andrew Bixler, Cindy Ruiz, Eric Lin, and Robert Humphreys
TEN YEARS: Vincent Liang and Lily Louie
TWENTY YEARS: Eugene Lee, Dennis Lubitz, Gomer Padilla, Titor Sandee, and Wendy Wilson
TWENTY FIVE YEARS: Catherine Cogliandro

The WorkLife Awards are sponsored by The Arc San Francisco Business Advisory Council (BAC), a network of business professionals dedicated to creating more employment opportunities for clients of The Arc.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Fitu the Poet

Fitu has been coming to The Arc San Francisco's ArtReach Studio & Gallery for eleven years now. During his time at the Studio, Fitu has loved making friends with other artists, learning new art techniques, and developing a more professional portfolio for his work.

Fitu is both a painter and writer. He first started writing poetry in 2005 and says, “It changed my life.” Through poetry, Fitu is able to express his voice and feelings. He shares his poems on his blog Peace Be The Journey.

Currently, Fitu is working on a collage in memory of a dear friend that recently passed away from cancer. Below are two of the poems he has written and will be including in his collage.

“You Are The Song, The Melody”
Happy Friends That We Were
Song Ballads That We Became
Blue Skies That We Stayed As
You Are The Song, The Melody In My Heart

Memorable Tunes We Didn’t Forget
Sad memories That Ended Our Relationship
Tomorrow’s Schedule We Should’ve Known
You Are The Song, The Melody In My Mind

Two Of Us We Met At The Hospital
Mail We Spent Our Days Helping Out
No Drama We Didn’t Have To Deal With
Only Cause God Took Care Of It Himself

Two of Us We Enjoyed The Afternoon
Mall We Spent Our Days Eating Alone
No Worries We Didn’t Have To Deal With
Only Cause God Took Care Of It Himself

Cold Breeze That It Kept Us Awake
Crunchy Snacks That It Kept Us Entertained
Volunteer Job That We Were Blessed With
You Are The Song, The Melody In My Life

Bus Ride That It Made Us Tired
Train Ride That It Made Us Feel Better
Clear Window That We Could See Brighter
You Are The Song, The Melody In My Faithfulness

“Only You”
Eternity We Always Spent
Spent On This Earth Forever
Unity We Always Share
Only You Can Make Me Smile Again
Relationship We Always Kept
Kept Till The Break Of Dawn
Faithfulness We Always Respect
Only You Can Make Me Smile Again

We Stayed As Friends
Not Just We Didn’t Care
We Stayed As Friends
Cause We Went To The Movies Once In Awhile

We Stayed As Friends
Not Just We Wanted To Get Away
We Stayed As Friends
Cause We Ate In The Food Court Once In A Blue Moon

Music We Love To Sing
Sing As We Left The Mall In The Afternoon
Chatting We Love To USe
Only You Can Brighten Up My Soull

Art We Love To Create
Create As The Morning Was Getting Started
Lunch We Love To Eat
Only You Can Help Me Grow Fast Again

We Stayed As Friends
Not Just We Was Feeling Tired
We Stayed As Friends
Cause We Rode The Bus Back To The Art Studio

We Stayed As Friends
Not Just It Rain And Poured
We Stayed As Friends
Cause We Rode The Bus Back To The Bart Station

Monday, March 20, 2017

Volunteer Program Spotlight

Volunteers at The Arc San Francisco bring our mission to life every day. Whether you are looking for a place to share your artistic skills each week or a wonderful location for team-building through a done-in-a-day group project, The Arc has something for you. Volunteer by yourself, with a friend, or as a group; we welcome your fresh ideas and diverse talents.
To learn more, check out this fantastic spotlight on The Arc SF's volunteer program and its Development & Volunteer Manager Giovanna Erkanat at
Interested in volunteering at The Arc San Francisco? Visit

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

International Women's Day

International Women’s Day highlights the importance of many issues that affect women from equal pay to access to education to healthcare. The Arc San Francisco would also like to highlight the importance of supporting women with disabilities. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports almost 27 million women in the United States as having a disability. Despite progress, there is still a long way to go in providing access to healthcare for women with disabilities, but at The Arc SF, we are seeing better outcomes through our one-to-one advocacy and our outreach to education and health care partners regarding better care for this population.

The Arc SF is working hard to close the gap in health care education and access for women with developmental disabilities. Due to cognitive challenges, fear, or a lifetime of inconsistent care, many female Arc clients experience health conditions that, if identified sooner, can be addressed with positive outcomes.

The Arc’s Health and Wellness services ensure medical access and continuity of care for our clients. Through our comprehensive community-based case management services, Arc clients of all ages as well as individuals with developmental disabilities in the community get support to live healthier lives with the help of a dedicated health advocate, a part-time nurse, health case management, and healthy living classes. Our Health Advocates assist clients in doctor-patient communication, provide helpful health history, ensure clients get timely screenings, follow medical treatment plans, and get the proper primary, vision, dental, and podiatry care necessary.

Interested in learning more? Visit!

Friday, February 17, 2017

Sharon Jones on Life and Friendship

Sharon Jones always wanted to write her story for everyone to read, but she didn't know where to start. A friend suggested that she should start at the beginning, and so that is what she did. As she was writing, Sharon remembered more and more of her colorful past thanks to the many questions posed by curious friends.

Sharon kick-started her memoir in Kim Thelen's creative writing class at The Arc San Francisco. She has more free hours than usual before baseball season starts up again and she returns to her job with the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park.

 A recent assignment in the course was to choose a topic to research and write about. Sharon chose Martin Luther King Jr. in honor of Black History Month. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech has inspired Sharon and her own dream of becoming a professional writer someday.

Sharon is very proud of her memoir and is excited for people to read her story. Her advice for others is, "If you want to, you should write your own story." This is Sharon's story, in her own words.

    I was born in Ferriday, Louisiana and moved to San Francisco when I was three because the doctors told my mother the doctors were better here. I have six brothers and five sisters and I am the baby of the sisters but my younger brother is the youngest of us all. I wanted to be the baby baby but I am not. My parents are good, they supported me. They gave me the master bedroom, a private phone line in my room, and they gave me what I wanted, stuff I needed. They were good. They were really nice, very gentle. I have three favorite siblings because they help me out with money and presents. One of them lives in Virginia and when she visits she takes me out to dinner and spends time with me. The other siblings are alright. I don't see them too much and don't always get along but I do my best.
    My top three favorite childhood memories are my red bicycle that I used to ride up and down the hallway. Before I had an electric chair, I used to have a wheelchair and I had to get down the stairs. I had my nephew on my lap and my four year old brother was playing with my chair. He didn't know better. He started playing and pushing and I went tumbling down the stairs, nephew and all. There were 50 stairs all the way down to the bottom. My nephew lost a tooth, and my mother gave my brother a spanking. I also loved having everybody live together. The girls would all sleep in the downstairs room and the boys slept upstairs. The bathroom was too much. One bathroom for eleven kids was always crazy. It was always busy, hectic, and sometimes we fought, but not all the time.
    I liked my elementary school. We could go swimming, and the pool was warm. I got along with the students, and I never got bullied. What I didn't like in elementary school was that every Friday we had clam chowder. I hate clam chowder. I used to gag, and the woman in the cafeteria told me to have my mom write a note, then I could bring my own lunch on Fridays. So I did, and no one ever made me eat clam chowder again. I guess in elementary school, my biggest problem was clam chowder. When I got to middle school, the real problems started.
    When I was in middle school, some of the students didn't like me and some did. I used to get bullied a lot. At first it didn't happen very often, but it slowly started happening more. The worst of it was just before graduation in eighth grade. I would get bullied twice a day, every day. I remember one time I got bullied, a boy pulled my hair, pulled me out of my wheelchair and started kicking me. My brother saw what was going on and got in the bully's face. He really yelled at him. My brother could be very intimidating. He was like my bodyguard and defended me whenever he could, but when he stayed at home, I would still get picked on. I had some friends at school, but my brother had a lot more than I did. If his friends saw me getting bullied, they would try to stop it and go tell him.
    After middle school, I got fed up with the bullying, and I couldn't take it anymore. When somebody pulled my hair, it bothered me more than anything. In high school, I finally started standing up for myself. When they used to pull my hair, I would get mad, and they could see in my face how mad I got, but they would keep on doing it until I got so frustrated that I would turn on them. That's how I started standing up for myself. I got so angry I didn't have a choice anymore. I don't remember exactly what I said, but I probably cursed at them, and if they were standing behind me, I would back up into them and try to run them over with my wheelchair. I didn't know if I hurt anyone with my wheelchair, but if I did, I didn't care.
    I loved high school. I was in choir, the glee club, and on the high school newspaper team. I really enjoyed participating in extracurricular activities with my classmates. Senior prom was a lot of fun. I had no one to go with so one of my brothers asked me and we went together. It was fun. We danced and mingled, and afterwards we went out to eat. I got to join a lot of activities. I even joined the the other seniors in cutting come classes during graduation week. Some of the students left the school to get food, but some of us just stayed at school and hung out in the hallway. We were too scared to leave the campus, but we had a good time anyway.
    When I graduated from high school, all the seniors and the audience gave me a standing ovation. That made me feel good inside. After that some of the seniors came over to my house, and we had a party, There were also a lot of other friends and my extended family at the party. We partied till three o-clock in the morning!
    After high school I didn't do anything but watch tv, eat, sleep, and do it all over again the next day. During that time I worked some odd jobs, but nothing much. That was my life until I got my first job at the Cerebral Palsy Center in Oakland, where I met Bob Fitch. I was 25. It was while I was working there that the big earthquake happened on October 17, 1989. I had just left the office and was the BART station when the floor, and my wheelchair, started shaking. Instead of processing my ticket and getting on BART, I had to turn around and go back to the Cerebral Palsy Center. Luckily, the phones were working and I was able to call my mom. Someone in the office suggested I could take the ferry home to San Francisco. So my mom called my uncle to pick me up at the ferry building. When I got home it was late. My uncle dropped me off. The power was out, so we had no lights, no TV, no way to cook. We sat around in the dark, my mom, my sister, my nephew, and I, talking about the day and the earthquake. I was hungry but we didn't have any food that didn't need cooking. Nobody knew the earthquake was going to happen, and everybody was pretty scared. I was a little scared but not that much. I just didn't really understand what happened. It was a good day till the earthquake happened, then it just got weird.
    Later I got a job at the AMC 1000 Van Ness movie theater, but I got laid off after four or five years. I then worked at the Blockbuster on Webster for ten years. I would put back the movies and place new movies in their cases. I liked working there. After I was laid off, I started to work at Mission High School as a mentor. I would also sometimes read to them from the computer and ask them questions. They knew I would be good at this job because the students also had a disability and they could relate to me. Because of a lack of funding, I eventually went to work at the AT&T Ball park in San Francisco. I still work there today!
    In June 2004, I started coming to the Arc San Francisco. My social worker had referred me there. When I first started coming here, I was quiet...If I said now that I am quiet, there would be a loud chorus of, "No you're not!" from my friends here at the Arc. But when I was new here, I didn't know anybody. I was afraid to go talk to people I didn't know. However, I'm a people person. After the first week or so, I wasn't scared anymore, and I'd gotten used to coming to the Arc. Sometimes, I would say hi to a stranger first, but sometimes they would come talk to me first. And now, I'm the queen of the roost. Look at me now, I've got more friends that call me Auntie, Mama, Sister, that I never had before. Now, everybody knows me. Even around town. Whenever I go out especially downtown, I see people everywhere that I know and that know me. People are always greeting me and asking me where I'm going or what I've been up to. It feels good to know so many people care. It took almost a decade, but now I have several leadership roles here at the Arc. I'm on the Board of Directors. I'm also on the Friends Like Me Committee. I've also participated in the Client Advisory Committee.
    Friends Like Me is an evening program for adults with IDD (IDD stands for intellectual and developmental disabilities), three times a week, at the Arc of San Francisco. We get together and play video games, board games, ping-pong, and pool. We talk and interact with each other and have a lot of fun. Also, we watch a movie once a week. After the movie, we have a discussion group about it--whether or not we liked it and why or why not. It's fun! Being on the Friends Like Me Committee, I get to talk about how I love the 3 nights I come here, and also come up with new activities and field trips to go on. They really want feedback from me and other clients because they want to know how it's going and whether or not the program is successful. Success means happy clients, and vice versa.
    I started on the Board in summer 2013. I think I was asked to be on the Board of Directors at the Arc because I am outspoken, and they look at me as an advocate. They want feedbag on the Arc program and how it's doing. Sometimes being on the Board of Directors can be boring, but sometimes it can be interesting, and overall it is very important to participate. Without the Board, the Arc simply wouldn't be bale to function, and without the Arc, a lot of people's lives would be miserable. There would be nothing for them to do.
    Another way that I advocate for myself and other Arc clients is by participating in the Client Adviser Committee. The CAC is exactly what it sounds like. it's a committee of Arc clients who advise the Arc according to their concerns, in order to make it work better for all clients. I stoppled participating in the CAC for a while but was asked to return. They think I'm a good candidate because I'm already on the Board of Directors and can act as a liaison between the two. But really, I think they just missed me! Like the Board, it can be a little boring sometimes, but I know it's important, so I do it anyway. Without the CAC, the Arc wouldn't know what to do to improve their program. It would stay the same and not grow with the clients.
    My life now sure is a lot busier than it was back then, right after high school. Back then, I didn't do anything but go home, sit, eat, and sleep everyday. My life was boring because I didn't have anything to do. It did not feel good. Staying at home everyday, doing the same thing, I didn't know that there was anything else I could do. I felt like that was the way my life would be forever. I did not know that I had a choice. It was my social worker who taught me that I did. He told me about the Arc because he had other clients who already attended Arc program. That's when I first came to the Arc.
    I have two ex-boyfriends. One is Devon. We first met at my best friend Georgiann's house. Then, that same day, we went to the Pier for our first date. Georgiann was there with her boyfriend, too. She's the one who introduced Devon and I. I was thirty, he was twenty-six. We were together for eight years. In fact, that means that in California we were common-law married. For the first few moths we were dating, Devon would stay over at my place every other night. Then he started bringing clothes over, and I said-well, you might as well move in! So we lived together for 7 or 8 years. Then we kept on bickering. He was addicted to playing his Atari video games, but I only have one television so I couldn't watch if he was playing. But then he got me a joystick controller so I could play Atari with him. He never should have done that, because then I started beating him at his video games. We still bickered over stupid stuff, like what we're going to watch on television. I wanted to watch Lifetime for women, and he wanted to play his video games. On a hot day in 2002, around eight o'clock in the evening, we were arguing again. Then he called my mother on himself, and told her he'd gotten too angry. So my mother told my six brothers plus my nephew. They all came over to my house together and straightened him out. My youngest brother told him to pack his stuff and get out of his sister's house. They all stayed with me until he left with all of his stuff.
    The other was named Sonny. He works at the ball park. Never date a guy who works with you. It never works! When I first saw him, he was sacred to come to me so I went to him. I went over to him but he was too shy to say hi. I went back to work and then a few minutes later, he came over to me and just started talking. We exchanged numbers and one weekend, my sister had a birthday party. It was perfect timing. I invited him and we had fun. He was a vegetarian but he cooks very well. We used to watch movies and go to baseball games. Not the Giants, the A's because we got free tickets from Catch! My favorite memory with him was Valentine's Day. He brought me flowers, a teddy bear, and candy. He was sweet, and I was happy after that. But eventually he turned out to be not so great. He started to like someone else... it happens. We broke up but we are still friends and I still see him around the ball park.
    I am happily single now. I don't need no man, especially when I have such good gal friends!
    Some of my best friends here at the Arc are Gladys and Vernea. I met Vernea in support group. When our parents passed away, we had a support group to talk about our mothers, the past. Ever since, we have been friends forever! We hang out at Friends Like Me, and are both in the drama class. We are almost always together. If there is a class excursion but I cannot go, Vernea would stay here with me. When we hang out, we go to the mall and window shop. We don't actually shop at the mall because it is so expensive. I would look at a jacket and see the price and think "I'll just put that back. It isn't that cute." If we want to actually shop, when we have money, we would go to target or something. We also like to go to the movies. We will watch comedies and romantic ones, and very rarely we'll watch a scary movie. The last one we saw was How to Be Single. It was very funny. But before that we watched Straight Out of Compton and that was completely different. It was very powerful. My favorite memory with Vernea is when she went to New York for a vacation and brought me back a souvenir bottle opener with my name on it. I wish I could have gone with her. It would be easier if I could walk, but I would need to find someone to go with me.
    I can't actually remember how I met Gladys. But we do basically the same things as I do with Vernea. The three of us are the three amigos, and we are always together. Gladys' mom is very nice, though. She has brought me bags and a scarf both as birthday presents and just because she felt like it. My favorite memory with Gladys is when a staff member is leaving and she is upset about it. I'd tell her, "Don't you start crying! Don't do it, or else you'll make me start crying!" It doesn't always work. Sometimes we just end up crying there together.
    Still, the best times are when we are all together. We were just at the Friends of Friends event. We put on a performance together. We danced to the song Puttin' On the Ritz and I received roses from Hermann. It was a fundraising event and that's why we do it every year. It helps raise money so the Arc can stay open and keep running the Friends Like Me program. That was a lot of fun. I really, really enjoyed it. The Three Amigos enjoyed it.
    The Best Buddies Agency partners people with disabilities with a buddy who doesn't have one. They would go out together to do things like going to the movies, eating lunch, shopping or going to the beach and other things. They would talk on the phone and go to their workplace to explore. I recently went to a game day sponsored by them. They has a little bit of everything there: basketball,baseball, soccer, volleyball, frisbee and even yoga. I was the goalie for the soccer game and nothing got by me. I am in this program and they put me in the University of San Francisco. I go there for activities like basketball games and Prom. I am going to go with my Best Buddy, Leah I love getting to go different places. I am an outdoor person and I don't like to stay inside for too long.
    I've got two cool buddies in this program. I met Leah last year, and she's pretty awesome. She sent me a video because when we were supposed to meet she couldn't make it. She sent me a message instead and I thought, "okay, she's pretty cool." We talk on the phone but this week she went back home for spring break. She's still a student at USF. The other buddy, Kelly, I met two years ago. She came to hear my speech and we hit it off. "Yeah, I like yooou!" We kept laughing. During the speech, I sang a part of the song "The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow." She names her team "The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow" every year because that song was her sister Annie's favorite. She has since passed. Because of this connection, I am on her team every year. She called me two years ago and asked to be my Best buddy, so now I have two Best Buddies. I am stealing all the Best Buddies! I call Kelly a trouble maker. She is my buddy and we get in trouble right good. She went to Hawaii to celebrate getting a new position for her job, and she brought me back a key chain, a lei, and a flower for my hair.
    I have been an ambassador with the program for nearly 5 years. I hate having to get up in the morning for training, They are usually at 9 on Saturdays. Who does that? There I learn how to write speeches and practice giving them to other ambassadors. My role as an ambassador is to give speeches to different agencies to talk about Best Buddies. The reason we do speeches is because April 23 is our Friendship Walk at Golden Gate Park, so we are trying to get different companies to come join us for the fundraising.
    Today, I still come to The Arc San Francisco. There always a lot of activities happening. I am here, there, and everywhere! I go to school at City College and I am taking Vocabulary, Reading and Writing, and that's about it. Those are my days. Thursdays are my favorite day because they are close to the weekend but not too close. I get to have one more day to get ready for the weekend, and Fridays are too busy.
    I plan to go to a four year college after I graduate city college. I'd like to get an English degree so that I can become a professional writer some day. I don't have planned where I want to go yet, though.
    I want to spend time traveling, everywhere, anywhere. Before I go, I want to visit my sister in Virginia. She made it so I can get into her house easily even with my chair. I would love to see Paris, London, and Rome. I love the languages and accents I would get to hear. And the scenery! It is so different from ours. I want to see hr landscapes and the architecture and the art, but I'd have to stay there for 4 weeks to do it all. That's alright with me! I would collect and send different postcards back to my friends and family in the states. "This is where I am now!" I want to share my experiences with them.
    My plans, should I every get married, start with finding me a rich guy! Maybe I'll find him in Paris, but they are more romantic than rich there. I would hold the wedding in a nice garden. It would be pretty large: I'd invite friends, family, nieces, nephews, uncles and aunts, and all the greats and great-greats. The list goes on and on. My dress would be beautiful. And expensive. I guess that's why I've been watching Say Yes to the Dress. I would love to have a very long train for the veil and my dress would be long and flowing. I would have lace and diamonds to decorate. I would want my wedding to have a lavender and gold theme. We would have five bridesmaids and groomsmen but I'd have two maids-of-honor: Vernae and Gladys. I wouldn't have it nay other way. We'd have our honeymoon in London. It hasn't happened yet but I still have time!
    I hope one day to retire and go to Jamaica. I hear they drink something good over there. I want to try margaritas and Sit or lay on the beach. I want to get suntanned on the warm sand. I also hope to have written a second book by then, but in the meantime, I am very, very happy.