Freedom Bus visit is learning experience

By Heather Hall

Earlier this week, my classroom went on a field trip to see, of all things, a bus.

This was not any ordinary bus. It was the Freedom Bus, which is part of the Americans with Disabilities Act Legacy Tour. Led by photojournalist Tom Olin, a longtime historian of the disability rights movement, this bus tour will be rolling across the country to raise awareness and build excitement about ADA25 — the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Freedom tour busPassed by Congress and signed into law on July 26, 1990, by President George H. W. Bush, the ADA is a wide-ranging civil rights law prohibiting discrimination based on disability. The Freedom Bus is wrapped in images of the disability rights struggle and the signing of the ADA, and at tour stops Olin talks about the events he photographed over the course of nearly 30 years that culminated in a greater understanding of the needs of those with disabilities and sweeping change to prohibit discrimination in employment, public services, accommodations and telecommunications.

Going to the Freedom Bus Tour was an amazing experience. It was great to hear about the history of the American Disability Rights movement. The students had a great time and were very interested in hearing Tom Olin talk. Everyone also seemed really excited to see the Freedom Bus and get their pictures taken. It was a great field trip with a lot of history and education.

Heather Hall received her master’s degree in special education at ASU. She is trained in the TEACCH Model and is working on becoming a certified trainer in both TEACCH and the PECS communication system.

Students visit horse-rescue ranch

By Roger Cardillo

josh feeds horseAll children have one thing in common — they learn in a multitude of different ways. Our recent field trip to Wildhorse Ranch Rescue in Gilbert gave my Gompers Private School students an opportunity to socialize with rescued animals and understand the value of being kind to all creatures.

Wildhorse Ranch Rescue was started in 1995 by Intel Corporation employee Kim Meagher. When she and her two young children, Nick and McKay, learned that more than 60,000 homeless horses in the United States are sent to horrible deaths each year, they knew they wanted to help.

burro cropFor the first five years, they rescued horses privately. Finally, in 2000, they received nonprofit status for Wildhorse Ranch Rescue and were able to broaden their rescue outreach.

I visited WRR one day nine years ago and, as a crusader for animal rights, I’ve been involved with the organization ever since.

Since its beginnings, WRR has expanded its reach to rescue other animals. Our students from Gompers Private School visited horses, burros and cats up close and were able to feed, groom and touch the various textures of the animals. They were educated on all aspects of animal care and anatomy.

roger and senekaThe students were very calm around the animals and very taken by their gentle behaviors. They especially enjoyed feeding and grooming. It was a great day.

In addition to WRR, each year we visit Hunkapi, an equine therapy organization in Scottsdale that allows the students to experience horseback riding. We also plan field trips to wildlife safari parks, the zoo and the aquarium because our students are so intrigued and captivated by various species and types of animals.


Roger Cardillo earned his master’s degree in special education from the University of Phoenix and is certified in all related developmental delays and disciplines.

Coffee-shop project draws rave reviews

By Heather Hall

Last school year, when our class was researching information for a project, I came across an article about a school back east that started a coffee shop. I thought, “Why not us?”

baldwin and cruz small fileI took the idea and modified for my students. Instead of the coffee shop being done out of the classroom, I decided to have the students deliver coffee and morning treats to the different departments at Gompers. I was looking for a way to teach job skills, social and academic skills. I really wanted to make it a meaningful experience for the kids.

Each morning, my students set up a rolling cart with fresh coffee, muffins, bagels, flavored cakes, hot chocolate, and tea. For the students who run the store, it is an opportunity to learn some important life skills. The program provides students with moderate to severe disabilities a chance to plan, shop and sell.

coffee cart 1 small fileOur class was not sure how people were going to react to the coffee shop, but it has been a huge success. Both staff and Gompers members in our program rooms come out into the hallways on school mornings when they hear that “The Very Gompers Coffee Shop” has arrived. The students are very excited to be going around and interacting with everyone. My students are learning how to count dollar bills in order to increase their purchasing skills and their understanding of how money works.

Last year, I did most of the shopping for the coffee shop each week. However, this year the students are going to Sam’s Club to get the supplies for the coffee shop. They have a great time getting the items on the shopping list and are learning more about the different facets of running a business.

Since we have started the coffee shop, I have seen such growth in the students — in confidence, in social skills, and in handling of money. For those reasons alone, “The Very Gompers Coffee Shop” is the perfect brew for my classroom.

Heather Hall received her master’s degree in special education at ASU. She is trained in the TEACCH Model and is working on becoming a certified trainer in both TEACCH and the PECS communication system.

Students exposed to new frontiers at Safeway Training Center

By Dory Chamas

Ms. Chamas' high-school class recently visited the Safeway Training Center at Gompers' Employment Services campus in Glendale.

Ms. Chamas’ high-school class recently visited the Safeway Training Center at Gompers’ Employment Services campus in Glendale.

Life is more than reading, writing and math. It also involves immersion in other skills necessary to succeed in both work and life.

The students in my transitional classroom recently made their first visit to the Safeway Training Center at our Gompers Employment Services campus in Glendale. Once there, they received an introduction to the job skills needed to work in a grocery store. As a group, we will be doing hands-on training with activities such as bagging, cashiering, stocking merchandise and recognizing the various departments in a grocery-store setting. The students will learn social skills as well as organizational abilities, money skills and customer service.

I believe this learning experience not only will benefit my students in their daily lives by giving them independence, but also will help them adapt to the community. I really am looking forward to seeing the new abilities they learn, because ultimately their success is my reward.

Dory Chamas, who earned her master’s degree in special education from Arizona State University, teaches our high-school classroom at Gompers Private School.