Transition support teacher Lily Herzing and special education teachers started the Patriot Balloon Factory to raise money starting May 7 by selling balloons to students and staff for the School Community Based (SCB) Program’s Vocational Experience Fund.
Herzing learned about this idea from her colleague at Blake. Their own balloon factory had positive effects on their school and she believed that it would do the same here. Herzing visited Blake to see how it worked and what it could do, then knew she had to bring it here. She applied and received an Innovated School to Work grant from MCPS to get the in-school business started.
This opportunity benefits students throughout the school and the students running the program. The students take orders during lunch and some use assistive technology with taking orders. They also fill the balloons with helium, putting ribbons and weights on. “I believe the best outcome is that all of our students who are participating are going to learn some really valuable transferable skills that they are going to be able to take to other jobs. That will help to prepare them to be more successful when they graduate from high school. They’ll learn those skills and be able to apply them to a variety of different places and be more employable,” Herzing said.
This program makes buying a balloon easy. The students running the business are excited to see how it goes. “I want to see my friends and people in the school. I’m going to help in the balloon factory and I just love being social,” junior Danny Fitzgerald said.
The special education program can be overlooked by other students. “Many people might not know what our program is or who our students are so that’s a great social component of it. As well as, when our students have to deliver them. Again, we’re going to be more visible and also promoting what we can do. I think there might be some misconceptions about students in our program, and what they can and cannot do but this is showing what we can do and we can be part of the school community,” special education teacher Megan Miller said.
One balloon costs $3 and a bouquet of two balloons (one print and one solid) costs $5. Students can stop by room 183 during lunch to purchase a balloon. Balloons are delivered throughout the day.