High School Student ‘Repays’ Southdowns School for Helping Brother by Raising Funds for, Opening Autism Sensory Room at the School
- February 18, 2011
Maxwell Khonsari, a freshman at Episcopal High School, was speechless today, February 18, after cutting a ribbon and entering the new Autism Sensory Room at Southdowns Pre-K Center. Clearly overwhelmed by what he saw at the ribbon-cutting ceremony, Khonsari stood wide-eyed as Principal Mary Slack said, “this is what all the money you raised bought. You did this.”
Khonsari is an older brother of a former autism student who attended Southdowns two years ago. His brother did so well at Southdowns Center, he now is enrolled in a traditional classroom program. To say thank you to the school for all its help, Khonsari wanted to do something special. So last spring, he held a jambalaya sale at Lowe’s on Siegen Lane as part of a school service project. By the end of the day, he had raised $6,000. Then he and his mother looked through some books and talked with teachers before coming up with the idea of creating a sensory room for autism students enrolled at the school.
Work on the project was delayed until December 2010, however, as summer renovations to the school building wrapped up and equipment was ordered. Teachers painted the room white over the holiday break and now have installed the equipment.
“The Sensory Room is a place where children with special needs can explore and develop their senses and skills,” Slack said. “It is filled with specialized equipment that targets all of the senses – sight, tactile, auditory, kinesthetic (touch), etc. – and is geared toward children with autism. This includes a lit-up Bubble T, which transports large bubbles from bottom to top; special CDs and videos; and large, soft pillows.” About 12 autistic children served by Southdowns will be able to use the center.
Khonsari (pictured, left) sat with one autistic student who was drawn to a flashing tube filled with bubbles and swimming toy fish. “I’m very proud of my brother. After seeing how well he did, I just thought maybe I could help Southdowns help other students with autism even more,” he said. “The room is important because these kids have needs every now and then to feel and touch. I hope this room will help students like my brother.”
Carla Theriot, who teaches pre-school autistic children at Southdowns Center, was excited about the project because Khonsari’s brother had once been one of her students. “This will help kids make wonderful progress,” she said. “With every good idea, you need a spark to make it happen. And that spark given to us was Max,” said Slack.
Principal Brister in Washington, D.C., to Accept McKinley Middle School’s Second Blue Ribbon Award
On Tuesday, November 13, 2012, Principal Herman Brister (pictured, left) and the school’s Teacher of the Year, Lynn Williamson (right), were in Washington, D.C., accepting McKinley Middle Academic Magnet School’s National Blue Ribbon Award from U.S. Department of Education’s Director of National Blue Ribbon Schools Program Aba Kumi (center). The event, which recognized some 314 schools from across the United States, was held at the Omni Hotel. Click herefor story.
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