WESTFIELD - Centaur Stride announces the next phase of work-based and volunteer learning experience, "Project Horseworks."
Centaur Stride is a 501(c)(3) corporation formed in 1991 to address the needs of people with disabilities through animal-assisted and nature programs. The mission of the organization is to enrich the lives of people with disabilities through a wide range of recreational and experiential learning activities.
The horse is a great teacher, facilitator and motivator, which is a key element in creating effective and therapeutic outcomes. A need was clearly identified for programs that address the physical and emotional needs of people with disabilities. Over the past 19 years, as clients grew, in age and ability, and in the number of participants, another need has become evident though Centaur Stride's participants, and a resolution, called Project Horseworks, had been implemented.
Project Horseworks cadets working on Old West Village props.
Work-based or volunteer learning experiences are vital to nurturing responsibility and greater levels of independence for a more productive and fulfilling life.
"We are aware that many of our clients who have graduated from school (with either IEP or general diplomas), are bored and lonely," says Claudia Monroe, president and co-founder of Centaur Stride. "Some of these graduates are not independent enough to become employed, or cannot find a job that will adapt to fit their abilities. There are not enough mentoring or volunteer programs available to provide opportunities for these students to develop their skills. We have individuals that have been riding at our center for years and want to be volunteers. They require direct supervision and mentoring, and we did not have the staff, funds or volunteers to allow them to be safe in this role."
Through a grant from The Children's Guild Foundation of Buffalo, Centaur Stride is now able to offer the second phase of Project Horseworks. Youth with disabilities, ages 14-25, are invited to register to become "cadets" in the program.
"Our plan of action is to establish a meaningful learning, social and community service experience for clients with disabilities, who need to work on their level of independence, including making healthy life-style choices, with specific individualized goals and objectives, and measurable outcomes," Monroe said. "These outcomes would include increased potential for employment, integration, community connections, lifelong learning, financial 'resourcefulness' and skill-building."
Project Horseworks activities center around horse care with an entrepreneurial flare. Cadets will identify that even the most unpleasant aspect of horse care can have its rewards for both the horse and the entrepreneur (i.e. stall cleaning). They will learn gardening and sales as participants will sell the produce they grow and manure they compost (from Centaur Stride) at nearby farmers' markets. These opportunities will give the participants the opportunity to think for themselves about ways to earn more money. They will be engaged in meaningful and purposeful activity and improve self-esteem.
Throughout the program, they will be working on areas of personal development and job readiness skills, such as: responsibility, following directions, completing assigned tasks, asking for help when needed, greeting others, adequate verbal skills, responding appropriately to criticism or change in routine, asking for more work when finished with assignments, prioritizing work, working in a group or individually, effectively using time and following a schedule. They will also gain exposure to proper work ethics including being on time, attendance, safe and effective choices and problem solving.
Centaur Stride will continue to work to create partnerships with school transition programs and sponsors in the community. These partnerships will enable Project Horseworks to continue to grow to meet the needs of more people, and help develop the sustainability of Centaur Stride.
For more information, visit www.centaurstride.org.. Donations can be sent to Centaur Stride, P.O. Box 174, Westfield, NY, 14787.