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“We celebrate Light It Up Blue because this is a very important cause, and many of our students, faculty and staff are directly affected by autism,” said West Hartford Campus President Tim Bush. “It also ties into American Institute’s learning experience, because we value service. We want to get our students involved in outside events to create a connection with the community.”
Light It Up Blue is an annual event created by the nonprofit organization Autism Speaks. It coincides with the United Nations’ World Autism Awareness Day and launches World Autism Month.
In cities and communities worldwide, homes, businesses, iconic buildings and landmarks – including the White House – are “lit blue” for a day. Autism Speaks also sponsors community events and educational activities to increase understanding and acceptance and promote support for people with autism.
“American Institute has participated in Light it Up Blue for several years, and we are happy to join in that tradition in the new Somerset campus as well” added Somerset Campus President, Jamil Gilmer. “We all dress in blue and take photos of everyone who participates to help spread awareness.”
According to Autism Speaks, autism spectrum disorders refer to a range of conditions that can include difficulty with social skills, repetitive behaviors, communication challenges and other issues. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates autism affects 1 in 68 children in the United States, and rates of diagnosis have risen over the past decade.
“Many pathologies are studied by our students because we are an allied health school,” said Mr. Bush. “Light It Up Blue is an opportunity for our students to research and learn about autism while they see it in their social media and news feeds as well.”
On all American Institute campuses, March is designated for “Blue Jeans for Babies” dress-down fundraising efforts. Students and staff donate funds, “permitting” them to wear blue jeans to class on Wednesdays and/or Fridays. All the money raised is donated to the March of Dimes, where seventy-seven cents of every dollar directly supports research and community programs.
Carmen Haynes led the initiative on the Clifton campuses. “I went to every class to introduce our event, explaining the importance of Blue Jeans for Babies and how crucial students’ donations are to the March of Dimes.” Instructors also posted flyers in online courses as well as around campus and reminded students about the fundraiser throughout the month.
“Dozens of students are participating,” said Ms. Haynes. “Including many ‘repeat supporters’ – students who have consistently supported the cause. So far, we’ve raised more than $100, and we’re only partway through the month!”
Blue Jeans for Babies is one of many national and international fundraising and awareness campaigns that American Institute encourages students to support.
“We participate in these events to support important causes and to show students the importance of being active in our community,” said Assistant Campus President, Sherry Muse. “Teaching the students to be concerned about the community and to participate in events like Blue Jeans for Babies directly supports our core values and the educational experience.”
March 5-11, 2017, all locations – American Institute joined in the week-long international celebration of the contributions made by dental assistants. This year’s theme for Dental Assistant Recognition Week (DARW) was “Patient focused with passion and purpose,” reflecting the growing importance of dentistry’s role in health care and the responsibilities of dental assistants.
“Dental Assistants are an important part of our AI family, and they are critical team members in every dental practice,” said Brooke Baran, Vice President of Education. “American Institute is proud to take this opportunity to honor our hardworking students and graduates who demonstrate constant dedication to their careers.”
The Toms River campus hosted a lunch for dental assisting students and faculty. Guest speaker Dr. Greenberg of Mt. Holly Family Dentistry, spoke about the role of the dental assistant and what dentists expect from an extern coming into the office.
“Dr. Greenberg’s presentation provoked a lot of questions from the students,” said Donielle Fitch, Director of Education. “It was a very intimate conversation, as Dr. Greenberg sat with the students and shared insights from his 30+ years of experience.”
A group of 12 students and two faculty members also traveled to Baltimore to tour the National Museum of Dentistry. Designated by Congress as the official museum of the dental profession in the U.S., the museum houses an extensive collection of more than 40,000 dental instruments, furniture, artwork and exhibits focused on the importance of oral health. For many of the students, it was an eye-opening experience.
“The students were very impressed by the history of the leaders in dentistry, including the many women and minorities who have held and now hold significant rolls in dental education and in professional organizations,” said Ms. Fitch.
Favorite moments during their visit including viewing an old black and white clip from the television series “The Little Rascals,” in which one of the kids has a dental appointment. “It was very funny, and the students enjoyed comparing that treatment room to the rooms we have today.”
Other exhibits reminded the students how far dentistry as advanced over the years. “They were astounded (and a little grossed out!) when they realized that long ago, assistants didn’t use gloves while assisting.”
Congratulations and thank you to all our dental assisting students, faculty and graduates for their dedication to this valuable profession. A week isn’t long enough to honor your many contributions.
“As educators, we recognize that reading impacts a child’s future success by building vocabulary, fluency, and comprehension,” said Shannon Arnold, Director of Career Services. “We are proud to support this effort in our Toms River community by bringing in children to our campus for a ‘reading corner’ featuring books by Dr. Seuss.”
Families of students and staff arrive to find the campus decorated with characters and quotes from Dr. Seuss’ books, with complimentary copies of his books handed out to the first ten children to arrive, and children also enjoy coloring activities and refreshments.
“This is always a fun event for the campus, because the children are so engaged,” said Ms. Arnold. “One young girl even climbed into my lap to help me tell the story!”
American Institute celebrates education at every level, and strives to create opportunities to connect with the community. Read Across America is a particularly popular event, because it allows students and faculty to share their love of reading with the next generation.
“We all grew up with Dr. Seuss,” said Campus President, Tim Rodgers. “Reading his books again is as much fun for us as it is for the children.”
Most of all, the adults enjoy watching the children respond to the stories. One young girl was so excited by the story that she jumped out of her seat and waved two balloons, while a very young baby surprised his mother by listening intently through the entire event.
“We love to get our students’ families involved in events here at the campus. The children are so excited about seeing the classrooms where their mom or dad is learning just like they do in their schools,” said Ms Arnold. “It reinforces the message that learning never has to stop, even if you’re grown!”
More than 1,500 families, including some American Institute students, depend on the pantry every month, says Admissions Representative Theresa (Terry) Barreto, who helps coordinate the school’s food donation effort. “It’s a critical resource for our community.”
The pantry was named for a Catholic priest who once ran bingo fundraisers at the church. He also distributed food and clothing to people in need. One night, as he was leaving the church after bingo, he was shot and killed by one of the people he’d helped earlier in the day. Since then, the community has supported the pantry to honor his dedication to service.
The Father English pantry is unusual, because it is organized like a grocery store, with each item priced in points. Patrons are given a certain number of points to “spend” based on the size of their family, and they can shop the aisles for the foods they prefer.
“Everyone should have choices,” Terry says. “Some families have medical issues, or allergies. At Father English, they can choose the foods they want.”
Each month, the pantry lets Terry know what types of food they need most, and Terry tells the students. At holidays and before school lets out for summer, there are special drives to ensure the pantry is well stocked for those critical times of year. By the end of the month, the box by the front door is full again.
“One of our core values at American Institute is service, and our students embrace that with their whole hearts,” says Sherry Muse, Assistant Campus President. “This is our community, and we all have something to give. Buying a few extra cans of beans to put in the box is an easy way to help make our community stronger.”
“I remembered the many breakfasts with Santa my parents brought me to and the magical delights of those moments,” Shannon said. “I knew I had to participate in the event, because it is so important for the children, who believe in the magic of the holidays.”
For three weeks, Shannon told all the families she served at Applebee’s about the Breakfast with Santa event. She sold 39 tickets, including two for her husband and her ten-month-old daughter, Charlee.
“Even though money is tight in my family, I knew the price we paid for the tickets would help a child who had no Christmas coming,” Shannon said. “Our Christmas tree would not have any presents under it either, but at least my daughter would get to meet Santa for the first time.”
On the day of the event, the jolly old elf arrived right on schedule, on a fire truck rather than his traditional sleigh. Wearing her own Santa hat, Shannon cheerfully brought out pancakes, sausage, eggs and chocolate milk for the families in attendance, earning $42 in tips.
“I considered keeping my tips, because we could really use the money. But I decided to donate the $42 to the toy drive,” Shannon said. “Times are hard for us, but somewhere they are even harder for another family.”
The Good Deeds essay contest provided an opportunity for Shannon and other students at the Margate campus to share their stories of service, which is a core value at American Institute.
Shannon’s essay ended with the words, “Good deeds are contagious. Paying it forward is something that we should do. My Christmas is complete.”
As it turned out, there was one more gift under the tree for Shannon. Her essay won the contest drawing, and she was presented with a $150 gift card. Happy Holidays, Shannon, and thank you for your generosity and dedication to your community.
December 2016, All Locations – Throughout December, American Institute students and staff were encouraged to find ways to contribute to the school community through the annual “December Do Good” competition. Students who demonstrated acts of kindness toward other students earned the opportunity to win a prize.
“Every time a student or staff member did a good deed, they got to spin our ‘Do Good Wheel’,” said Brooke Baran, Vice President of Education. “We want to celebrate those little acts that really make a difference in the lives of our students and our school community.”
Antonio James, a student at the Toms River campus, was nominated for a chance at the wheel because of his dedication to helping his fellow classmates with their lab work. For his patience and kindness, Antonio got to spin for the chance to win one of several themed prizes, including the “Sweet Tooth” (a bag of candy bars), “Homebody Heaven” (a candle, facemask, and warm fuzzy socks), and “Feel the Music” (headphones and an iTunes gift certificate).
“This is our fourth year doing this project, and we all really look forward to it,” said Ms Baran. “It motivates students to do good knowing that their acts of kindness will not go unnoticed or unappreciated.”
“We’re always looking for opportunities to give back to the community and to demonstrate our students’ skills,” said Carrie Weinerman, Massage Therapy Program Director at the Toms River campus of American Institute. “And no one works harder than day care employees. So, I offered to have our students come to the day care center and give massages to the staff.”
The next week, Ms. Weinerman and her students brought their new massage therapy skills to the Learning Experience Day Care Center, where 25 employees enjoyed well-deserved chair massages.
“The students massaged all the teachers, assistants, administration – everyone that works there came in,” said Ms. Weinerman. “They were so excited and so thankful. We all loved every second of it.”
The students also handed out business cards and circulated a sign-in sheet so the day care staff could make follow-up appointments at the American Institute student massage clinic.
“It’s important for our students to see that people in many different occupations need massages,” said Ms. Weinerman. “They feel so great knowing they helped so many people, and that everyone they massaged absolutely loved it. It gives the students a lot of confidence.”
The students did such a fantastic job, in fact, that the day care manager asked if they could come back regularly. Ms. Weinerman is planning to organize monthly visits next year.
“I’m proud of our team and our students for their commitment to make a difference in our community by providing service wherever and whenever they can. It’s an important part of what makes American Institute such a great place to be, and I’m delighted to see it in action,” noted Campus President Timothy M. Rodgers.
December, 2016, West Hartford, CT – It’s an annual start to the holiday season at the American Institute in West Hartford, CT. Students set aside their studies and turn their attention to decorating gingerbread houses that will be donated to needy children in their community.
“Everyone on campus is invited to participate,” said Campus Director Kim Colbert. “We supply all of the materials, and each team has one hour to decorate a house.”
The students craft whimsical designs from candies, pretzels, gum drops, frosting, cookies and chocolate. The only rule: Everything used must be edible.
“Our students are incredibly creative – and competitive, in a great way,” said Ms. Colbert. “Their houses get very elaborate, because they’re so determined to create a winter wonderland for the kids.”
The completed gingerbread houses are donated to the “We Are the Children” Christmas Party hosted by Gary Craig, morning host on 96.5 WTIC-FM radio. Since 1985, We Are the Children has held an annual party every Christmas day for needy children who have no other place to celebrate the holiday.
Thanks to American Institute students, each child attending the party will take home a hand-decorated gingerbread house.
“We look forward to this event every year,” said Ms. Colbert. “It’s an opportunity for our students to work together to accomplish a goal, building camaraderie through a little healthy competition. It also gives the students a break from their studies to celebrate the season and have some fun, while supporting a worthy cause and giving back to the community.”
American Institute encourages students to give back to their community to build good will and practice the school’s core values of innovation, caring, accountability, integrity, respect and service.
“It’s wonderful to see our students working together to build something so beautiful and then happily giving it away,” said Ms. Colbert. “It really demonstrates the character and generosity of spirit that make American Institute students so special.”
April 2, 2017, all locations – On April 2nd, American Institute campuses joined the world in celebrating “Light it up Blue” to help raise awareness about autism. Many staff and students came to class wearing blue, signifying their support for research and programs that assist the rising number of children and adults who live with […]
March 2017, all locations – According to the March of Dimes, every day babies are born sick or so small they can fit in the palm of a hand. To help support the organization’s efforts to improve neonatal care and infant health, the American Institute takes part in the annual “Blue Jeans for Babies” fundraiser. […]