Principal Jo Cullen said it was an opportunity for students to give back to emergency responders and gain social interaction skills, which will serve the students well after graduation.
“It’s a breakfast for all the first responders in the city,” Cullen said. “As a charity we rely on community support, obviously to raise money and to keep our education program going. but it’s important for our students to see that there’s a lot of people out there who give to the tremendously to the community as well, and it’s time for us to give back. We organized this first responder breakfast to say thanks.”
Jeremiah School started three years ago and has a maximum of 15 students with a five-to-one student-teacher ratio. That allows direct attention to each student in a much smaller environment.
“Children with autism find it really quite challenging in the public school,” Cullen said. “Imagine being a child with sensory issues being in a classroom with 25, with all the noise, the hustle and bustle. Autism is really a social and communication disorder and to be in a middle school or high school environment, which is a very social environment, it’s very difficult for these students to understand what’s going on around them. They often feel isolated and it can lead to anxiety and depression.”
One student helping serve breakfast was Caroline Crosswhite, whose father is a Washington County/Johnson City EMS paramedic. Both said Jeremiah School had been a positive experience.
“I’m very thankful for him,” Caroline said about her dad. “He risks his life on some calls and I’m glad they had this event so I can show him,” her love and appreciation.
Caroline said she loves Jeremiah School with lots of friends and she’s “able to be myself.”
Johnson City Police Officer David Smith said it means a lot to see the kids being able to interact with others, especially because his oldest son, a Liberty Bell Middle School student, is on the high-functioning end of the autism spectrum.
“For them to be willing to serve us breakfast and thank us for the things we do, it’s very neat to see,” he said. Smith said public interaction skills are highly important for autistic kids as they grow into adults and have to function in society.
The free breakfast was donated by Bojangles’ Famous Chicken ’n Biscuits, Chick-fil-A and Wheeler’s Bagels.