Last Friday, on 4/26/19, a Superhero Dance was held for Milpitas High School’s (MHS) Community Based Instruction (CBI) students.

The program, which provides special needs students with support in developing life and social skills, is behind three classes at MHS. One is being run by Santa Clara County, and includes kids with more severe cases. The other two are run by: Marvel Guglielmelli, who has been working as a Para Educator in the Milpitas Unified School District since 1990; and Leroy Dozal, who came onboard this past year as a Teacher and Case Manager for the program.   

Although both Guglielmelli and Dozal teach the classes, they’ve both mentioned how important it has been to have support. Guglielmelli credited Milpitas Unified for giving her support whenever she needs it. And a few other para educators are present in the class to help with students. As well, parent engagement is key to giving these students a thorough and fruitful experience.

“In order for our students to be successful on campus, the parents need to be involved,” said Dozal, who also mentioned that the Superhero Dance would not be possible without all the parent volunteers who stepped up to help.

Randy Barbosa, who came out to volunteer for the dance, has three children, two of whom are severely autistic. Kaelyn, his middle child, is a sophomore at MHS.

“Having two severely autistic kids has been a challenge, to say the least,” said Barbosa. “But it’s also very rewarding at the same time.”

Barbosa’s youngest child, who also has special needs, is in the fifth grade at Burnett Elementary. Whereas Barbosa has found that the elementary school support for special needs kids is more geared toward the academic, the CBI program at MHS has exceeded his expectations, providing his daughter with real-life experiences, like going to the grocery store to shop and learn how to pay for things. These are the moments that will help to shape and strengthen Kaelyn as she continues to grow.  

Guglielmelli spoke with passion about how much all of the students mean to her, and how committed she is to the work she does with them: “Every one of them is different. Every one of them has this beautiful personality that you really get to know.”

The CBI program currently has about 24 students. Their days are full of structure, routine, and basic fundamentals, so that they can thrive as young adults in the community.

Anika Villo, a senior in the program, mentioned how much she loved being involved in CBI: “I really like the trips. We go to the park, we watch movies…”

Every Friday, they take a community trip out to places like the Great Mall, Golfland, or the movie theater. And they go on adventures using local transit, so that they can learn to get around.

Every Tuesday, they make a stop at Smart & Final, where they purchase food for their weekly fundraiser. On Wednesday mornings, the students get an opportunity to help prepare breakfast burritos, which they then go out to sell around campus. Collecting money and interacting with others helps to build not only their life skills, but their confidence.

When asked about how his students have progressed over the year, Dozal said, “At first, it was about building trust with them. And now, they’re just more verbal and able to handle tasks independently.

“It’s a great thing to see them grow.”

 

Rhoda Shapiro
Rhoda Shapiro works as a journalist and media consultant in the Bay Area. She has written for both the Tri-City Voice and the Mercury News, and is the founder of Chi Media Company, which works with nonprofit organizations to elevate their marketing and communication platforms. Rhoda is also an author; her first book will be published by Llewellyn Worldwide in mid-2019. Her YouTube channel, which features practices in yoga, meditation, and women’s empowerment, has amassed thousands of subscribers. Rhoda is The Milpitas Beat’s founder.

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