From the Desk of Harry Klein, Director, JSDD WAE Center
When the Covid-19 pandemic hit the WAE community over 2 years ago, the staff scrambled to figure out how to stay connected with our members. By May of 2020, we were hosting 4 virtual classes per week. This was a huge accomplishment for those of us who had never even heard of zoom before! This new virtual program was named “WAE to Connect”. Fast forward to summer 2022 and this program has grown its class roster to exceed 25 classes a week while including Physical and Occupational Therapies along with 1:1 interactive engagement opportunities.
WAE to Connect, was being managed by myself and Anthonice Lauriston. While working to get the WAE Center onsite program fully open, it became abundantly clear that we needed support to continue and to grow this virtual program. WAE to Connect was running well… but as always, the intention was to expand the program to meet the growing needs of our members and new participants. We had to hire someone to take on the challenge, to step into the fire and keep it burning bright and build it. We interviewed numerous applicants and recognized immediately that Ronnella Walker was the ideal candidate to take this dynamic program to the next level of development. In March of 2022 Ronnella was hired as the Manager for the WAE to Connect Virtual Program.
Ronnella brings a confidence in herself and her abilities to the job, along with a willingness to think outside of the box. The WAE Center humanistic philosophy is fully aligned with Ronnella’s outlook on life; the focus on inclusion and being “heart-centered.” She brings a passion to her role and a belief in the WAE to Connect staff and participants. She is eager to streamline the program and position it for expansion. The next few months are going to deliver some changes in the basic schedule after which, outreach beyond New Jersey to attract participants will be explored. Currently, Ronnella has a trans-continental staff, reaching as far south as Florida. Eventually, some of the online classes will transition to in-person opportunities and she will work to re-establish specialized after-hours workshops onsite at the WAE Center. In a nutshell… new classes, new facilitators, new opportunities for the members to learn and interact.
The goal of WAE to Connect is to create classes for the whole community, where people with IDD can engage in learning and creative endeavors with people from the neuro-typical world in a safe, fun, dynamic physical environment, and virtual space. Exactly what will it look like? This is still a bit of a mystery as most programmatic growth at the WAE Center is member-driven and develops organically. One thing we do know is that we have nothing to be worried about with Ronnella at the helm. As she often says, “Teamwork is what makes the dream work” and we are thrilled to have her on our team.
WAE to Connect Manager, Ronnella Walker