TCFD’S ACT AND TAZ PROGRAMS: HOW PARTICIPANTS DEVELOP THEIR SKILLS AND LEARN OF A COMMUNITY BUILT ON ACCEPTANCE AND SUPPORT

TCFD TAZ Interns

Employees at The Center for Discovery® (TCFD) enjoy a rich and fulfilling lifestyle on the job and beyond, and, thanks to a couple of valuable programs offered by The Center, the same goes for their children. Many families essentially grow up at The Center: current ACT (Awesome Career Team) participants and TAZ (Totally Awesome Zone) interns shared memories of swimming in the therapeutic pool, visiting the animals in the Imaginarium, and playing four square outside the daycare building. For the children of Senior Occupational Therapist, Evan, and Head of QI, Steve, as with many others, TCFD has always been more than just a parent’s place of employment. Evan has been with TCFD for seventeen years, and Steve has worked at The Center for over nine. Both Evan’s and Steve’s children have participated in the TAZ and ACT programs, which are tailor-made for the children of employees to learn about The Center and develop their social and professional skills  — and both sing the programs’ praises as valuable opportunities for any preteen or young adult.

Fiber LessonEvan’s daughter Rebecca, an incoming high school sophomore, started out in the camp program when she was eleven and is now participating in the ACT program for her fourth summer. At first, she says, she didn’t fully understand the scope of TCFD and its activities. Her time in ACT has helped her to see The Center as a dynamic, integrated community and to understand how each department cooperates to help people “be the best they can be.” Being in ACT has improved her communication abilities and taught her the importance of all tasks, even difficult or tedious ones, in creating a pleasant and functional environment. From learning tasty healthy recipes, to making her own herbal tea and lip balm, to “character building” — a.k.a. weeding —, Becky’s experiences with ACT have positively impacted her and deepened her appreciation for others. Her favorite part of being at TCFD is walking through campus and having person after person stop to smile and say “hello.” She loves The Center’s “good energy,” which she says is part of what makes her work in ACT so meaningful. She is happy to give back to the community by beautifying the campus or working to brighten someone’s day by hiding painted rocks in the gardens for residents to find. Her time at TCFD has given her a new perspective on the lives of individuals with complex conditions, as well as on her own life and on the differences and, often, similarities between the two. “ACT is a great program, and The Center does wonderful things that you get to witness in ACT,” says Becky.

Rock Painting

Steve’s two sons have both participated in TAZ. Matthew, an incoming high school senior and current music therapy intern, says, “The Center brings people with and without [complex conditions] together to broaden their circles of peers… over the years, I have grown to better myself through The Center’s supportive attitude and love others better.” Matthew explained that TAZ and the people at TCFD have helped him learn professional skills and interpersonal communication, leading him towards a “healthier and happier career.”

Interns in the office

His brother Marcus, who previously interned with TAZ in the music therapy department and in the Office of Strategic Outreach and Partnerships (formerly the Media Studio), expressed similar ideas. “I think the one aspect [from TAZ] that I use the most is how to interact with other people,” says Marcus. “The climate that The Center has is not common everywhere else, so when I say ‘how’s it going’ or ‘hello’ with people, it takes them by surprise, and I think that by doing that, one gets a better sense of networking and authenticity.  I show them that I really do care about how they are doing and in turn, I hope that they adopt that same attitude in their own life.” Marcus believes that The Center’s work is more important than ever in the context of the current political climate. To him, TCFD represents “the epitome of inclusion and acceptance” that all other organizations should strive for.

Many proud long-time employees, including Evan and Steve, are thrilled that their children have the opportunity to experience what TCFD has to offer. Brainstorm Session on LaptopEvan says that the camp, ACT, and TAZ programs are “a wonderful, structured introduction to The Center and its various areas.” He feels that the programs are invaluable in giving the children of staff members a “huge opportunity [they] wouldn’t otherwise have to… see the potential, importance, and wonders of working someplace like [The Center], and with this population.” Steve reiterated this perspective and expressed the ways in which participating in TAZ has positively impacted his children and those of other staff members. In his view, The Center is a beacon of acceptance and support, teaching young people the important message that everyone has a valued place in their community.

As ACT and TAZ Group Leader Tom explains, the two programs have different goals that go hand-in-hand to enrich the lives of employees’ children and teach them significant lessons for their future careers and their lives. As he explains it, ACT gives kids the opportunity to try out many “interesting vocations” while building a basic understanding of the mission of TCFD. TAZ furthers this understanding, while also teaching teens important skills related to professional development and learning positive work habits. TAZ teaches participants “the ability to get along with each other… and be independent and proactive,” Tom says. His favorite part of leading the TAZ and ACT groups is getting to meet and get to know the children of employees that he’s known for years. He believes that the two programs, as well as the camp program, are important for young people because many of them who encounter “individuals with very significant needs” in public don’t recognize or understand “what they go through and what they’re capable of achieving.” ACT and TAZ “[give] the kids a very different outlook on [these] individuals,” and, for some, “they really do buy into the mission [of The Center for Discovery®], and it could become a lifelong calling.”

Evan, Steve, and their families are only a fraction of those who experience the magic of The Center’s environment. For the children of The Center’s approximately 1,700 employees, it is not just a parent’s workplace, but a place where they too can grow and learn. The ideas that form the core philosophies of TCFD are ones that positively impact the lifestyles of community members and improve the lives of those around them. Within the camp, ACT, and TAZ programs, young people develop their skills and get to experience a real-life example of an inclusive community built on acceptance and support — ideas that children can carry into their own lives and careers far into the future.

Chopping Vegetables

This post was written by two of this year’s TCFD TAZ interns, Abigail and Johanna. 

For more information on the ACT and TAZ programs at The Center for Discovery®, please reach out to Richard Humleker, Vice President for Development, at RHumleker@tcfd.org

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