Looney Balloons, their helium-balloon, singing-gram and marshmallow lollipop business, has been in existence for more than 15 years.
The two endeavors teach students how to work specific tasks on an assembly line. They take orders, collect money, give change and fill orders. The young entrepreneurs also must be able to find the right classroom for delivery. No one is left out; everyone has a job.
“The students involved have an intellectual disability and everyone is different,” said Jacqueline Sizemore, ESE department head who sponsors Looney Balloons. “A few are selectively mute and a few can talk your ear off. We have nonreaders and students reading on a third-grade level. Typically our students have an IQ from 35 to 70 and all are on track for a special diploma.”
The young people Sizemore teaches “fall on the lower IQ range and love you unconditionally,” she said. “Not a day goes by that I don’t thank God for the joy they bring to my life. The Brew Crew students, sponsored by ESE teachers Kandice Hill and Wesley Wyatt, are higher functioning but equally engaging.”
Profits from the Looney Balloons, which peak before pep rallies, club banquets and Valentine’s Day, and Brew Crew operations supplement the exceptional student education curriculum.
When Sizemore’s students draw names for a gift exchange in December, the class takes money it earned from the business to buy presents at Dollar Tree and lunch at Beef ‘O’ Brady’s. Their earnings also purchase a movie theater outing and food for cooking lessons.
These commercial activities that help prepare students for post-graduation jobs doesn’t come without cost, however.
“It would be nice if we had sponsors to help with our supplies such as purchasing a tank of helium or balloons,” said Sizemore, who also mentioned a need for desktop computers and a 15-passenger van for community-based instruction and training trips.
For information or to help, contact Sizemore at (813) 757-9075, ext. 270, or [email protected]
Send news of community interest to Barbara Routen at [email protected]