GiGi’s Playhouse Fort Wayne Celebrates Four New GiGi U Graduates

2020 GiGi U Graduates

Last week, four students graduated from GiGi U at GiGi’s Playhouse Fort Wayne. In this guest post, our program manager, Lauren Clark, reflects on their time in GiGi u.

Let me tell you about the four incredible students I had the privilege to teach this Fall at GiGi University.

Jacob would spend his mornings at Anthis before he would come to GiGi University in the afternoon. Jacob was probably my harshest critic. Before I would plan a lesson, I would always think “Would Jacob enjoy this activity?” He challenged me as a teacher in the best way possible! My favorite memory of Jacob in GiGi U was when Jacob went on stage for graduation to give his speech. Jacob did not talk much in class so I wasn’t sure if he would go on stage in front of everyone to speak. I was super proud of him in that moment!

Judy was the only female in this session of GiGi U, and she was proud of it! When I was working with a student and she could see one of her friends struggling, she would get out of her seat to help her friend. I could always count on Judy to participate in class and answer questions that I asked. Even though she called me troublemaker #3, I know she enjoyed her experience at GiGi U. My favorite memory of Judy is when she dressed up as the “word search queen” for Halloween. Some lessons included word searches, and as soon as I would pull up the word search on the screen, Judy would find a word. I think it is one of her superpowers!

Nick moved from Florida to Fort Wayne and his mom heard about the Playhouse on the news. Ever since he has set foot in the Playhouse, he has been involved in as much as he possibly can. When he heard about GiGi U and the chance to work at Genesis Health Bar after he graduated, he was all in! He would come to class early because he could not wait to see what we were doing in class that day. Nick has one of the kindest hearts of anyone I know. He would always ask me and his classmates about their days.  Nick was a superstar in the classroom. He would always participate and wanted to succeed in everything he did. My favorite memory of Nick in GiGi U was anytime we would dance. He was always the first one up his feet and loved showing off his dance moves!

Phillip had the most growth out of all four students in GiGi U. He did not talk that much the first few weeks but when his confidence grew, he started answering questions in class and participating in our fitness program in class. One of the hardest parts of working with Individuals with Down syndrome is sometimes it is hard to understand what they are trying to say to you. Patience and believe that they can find a way to share their thoughts is what we believe her at GiGi’s Playhouse. Phillip wowed us when  when we were working on something and as clear as day he started singing “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” from The Lion King. Phillip has an amazing singing voice and after that day he would sing a song for the class whenever he felt like we needed some joy. Sing on Phillip and let the world hear your amazing voice!

I think my favorite thing about GiGi U is seeing the growth in all my students. If you would have asked me on day one if all the students would have stood up in front of strangers during graduation to give a speech, I would have most likely told you no. On Graduation Day, all four students got up and gave a speech. I could tell that they were nervous, but you could see that they were proud of their growth and wanted to show their families the things they learned in GiGi U. This class will always hold a special place in my heart because they were my first GiGi U class.

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