Rena and Ronnie first learned about the Sam Field Center (then the Samuel Field YM-YWHA) when their son Julius was born. They were looking for a daycare for children with special needs. They found out that Sam Field offers after school and enrichment programs for children ages 5 and up. As soon as Julius started school they returned to Sam Field and registered him in after school.
Julius attended after school at Sam Field until he began middle school when his mother’s schedule changed and she could be home in the afternoons with him. But Julius missed his friends and his counselors and came for every vacation camp offered.
Two years ago, Rena and Ronnie received a phone call from the Senior Director of Special Services asking if Julius would like to participate in the Haderekh program. Haderekh is an internship program working with young people with autism spectrum disorder to prepare them for adulthood. Julius and his parents immediately said, “Yes!!!”
Julius takes his position seriously. He prepares his belongings ahead of time and always gets to work on time or even early. Julius told us, “when I walk into the building I feel proud and happy.” His parents echoed the sentiment and said, “As parents, you can’t imagine the feeling for my husband and me to see our only child go from participant to employee.”
Julius’ favorite part of working in Sam Field’s Special Services After School Program is helping the kids. He shared, “I like to talk to them and help with their homework and I like when we go to gym.” Julius continued, “I tell them I was in the program and they can be like me.” When Julius isn’t in school or at his Sam Field job he likes to watch NBA basketball, and volunteers at the Queens Library and at the Alley Pond Environmental Center taking care of the turtles.
Julius’ parents have also grown and changed through their experiences parenting a child with special needs. Rena and Ronnie said, “we have all grown together. We try to teach Julius if this is something he can do himself he shouldn’t rely on others. We support him to go outside his comfort zone and he is very proud of what he can accomplish.” They continued, “Everyone at Sam Field supported him from day one. He learned to be part of a group and to be a friend and has maintained those friendships. Now he is learning to be a leader and teacher to other students. They gave him the opportunity to grow and to grow up. We all love the Sam Field Center and are honored to be part of the Commonpoint family.”