Archive for May, 2013


The School is Alive with “The Sound of Music”

The annual talent show is a long-standing tradition at the Pioneer Center. It began around 30 years ago, headed by Cass Stull. Back then, Cass would simply walk around to each room and ask if the students had any special talents they would like to share with the school. Talents ranged from singing and dancing to going incredibly fast on a “sit n’ spin” toy (that performance was unanimously hailed by the audience as “hilarious”).

For the last dozen years, the show has been orchestrated by Kristine Ramsey, Music Therapist at the Pioneer Center. Mrs. Ramsey leveraged her theater and show choir experience to help organize the show. She began incorporating themes, and trying to get every student participating in some way. Themes have included a Michael Jackson Tribute, Music of the Decades, Television Theme Songs, Broadway Musical theme, and a take on the hit show “America’s Got Talent” that showcased a variety of musical acts.

This year, Carol Uhrig suggested doing an actual musical; one of her favorites, “The Sound of Music” was selected. Carol will be retiring at the end of this school year, after serving the students of Pioneer for 35 years. The show was a special sort of send-off for Carol. I spoke with Carol after the performance, asking her what she thought. “It never ceases to amaze me how this school is able to incorporate all of our students’ unique talents,” Carol said.

The students captured the spirit of Pioneer quite well this year and, once again, made it a great success.

Click here to view the performance in its entirety.


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Self-Advocacy Making Strides

The self-advocacy movement for people with disabilities grew out of the civil rights movements of the 1960’s, but in a way, it is quite new. It has evolved along with our country’s understanding and treatment of individuals with developmental disabilities. Self-advocates are individuals who are passionate about speaking up for themselves, their rights, and their independence.

Currently, one of the biggest names in self-advocacy in Ohio is Christine Brown. Christine Brown, Owner of Brown-Cooley Associates in Self-Determination is well known to many in the DD service system. Christine has been advocating for people with disabilities since 1994. She has a passion for advocating change and seeing choices for people with disabilities. She lives in Grandview Heights Ohio in Franklin County and has worked with county boards and the local officials, including the mayor to foster awareness for disabilities issues affecting people in her community.

Recently, Christine visited Ross County, conducting two meetings; one at the Pioneer Center with representatives from the county board’s administration team including Superintendent Rick Marriott, and another with local self-advocates at First Capital Enterprises. Discussions were had about ways to strengthen the self-advocacy movement in our county. A survey was also conducted related to self-advocacy and the efforts of the local People First Chapter.

You can find out more about Christine and Brown-Cooley & Associates by clicking here.

Watch a video collaboration here from SABE 2010 about the self-advocacy and self-determination movement.

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Frying Up Fun – Pioneer and U.C.T. partner for the 25th Annual Fish Fry

Last Friday, the Pioneer Center partnered with U.C.T. for the 25th time for the Annual Fish Fry. The event was held at the Pioneer Center, where current students mingled with Pioneer alumni, as well as other individuals who are part of the Pioneer family. Individuals from Pioneer, Goodwill, First Capital Enterprises, Frontier Options, and Frontier Community Services were in attendance.

There were plenty of activities to accompany the food. Old movies that were shot at the school were shown in the home training room. There was also Wheel of Fortune, where individuals competed for their favorite candy bar. The event was capped off with a dance, held in the gymnasium.

The day was especially eventful for Kaylee Trent, a 14 year old student at the Pioneer Center who spent the day serving as the Assistant Director of Communications. Kaylee interviewed staff, students, and alumni throughout the day. She asked them questions about their favorite part of Fish Fry day, and how many years they had attended the event. The responses she recorded are too numerous to list here, so allow me to summarize: For many individuals, this was their first time attending the fish fry, while others were seasoned veterans. The most seasoned of which reported that this was their 32nd fish fry! Overwhelmingly, regardless of age or occupation, Kaylee heard that the favorite part of fish fry day was having the opportunity to interact with old friends.

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SSA’s Get Involved in Crisis Training

The Pioneer Center’s SSA office is one of many community presenters speaking to five county area of “first-responders” about understanding the Developmental Disability system, how to contact Pioneer for assistance, and general guidelines for interacting with an individual with a disability in a crisis. Representatives from the SSA office are scheduled to present this Thursday. For more information on this topic, please contact Laura Martin at

Check out the related story here.


Pioneer Competes at Regional Special Olympics in Rio Grande

You would be hard pressed to find someone who agreed with the axiom “not everyone can be a winner” last Friday at the Stanly L. Evan’s Athletic and Recreation Field in Rio Grande, the site of the 2013 Regional Special Olympics.

The Special Olympics were hosted by the University of Rio Grande. The Pioneer School held a strong presence, with 31 students participating in the event.  In all, more than 500 students from a dozen schools took part in the event.

“It’s a great opportunity for the kids to come together with Pioneer alumni and friends they’ve made in other school districts in a unique setting at a large venue,” said Carol Uhrig, a Pioneer School teacher. This was Carol’s final trip to the Special Olympics as a Pioneer faculty member; she’s retiring at the end of this school year, after 35 years. The Pioneer’s annual trip to Rio Grande was a staple at the school even before Carol came on board.

The Special Olympics began taking shape in the 1950’s, spearheaded by Eunice Kennedy Shriver. The event, which began as a day camp in Shriver’s backyard, grew into a full-fledged movement. Throughout the 1960s, Eunice continued her pioneering work – both as the driving force behind President John F. Kennedy’s White House panel on people with intellectual disabilities and as the director of the Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. Foundation.

The Special Olympics’ long and storied lineage has certainly stood the test of time. Or, in modern terms, “it’s kind of a big deal.” As soon as basketball season wraps up, the kids start looking forward to it.

For the past 4 years, in preparation for the Special Olympics, the students from Pioneer head over to Herrnstein field, where they receive training from the CHS Track & Field team days before this big event. This mentorship began thanks to collaboration between CHS Track Coach Dana Cousins and Patti Smith. Patti is a teacher at Pioneer, and mother of star Shot Put thrower Curt Smith who now competes for OSU.

The training paid off. The Pioneer School brought home 12 gold, 16 silver, 7 bronze medals, and a slew full of shiny new ribbons.

It’s the involvement of dedicated educators, coaches, and community partners like these that make everyone feel like a winner.

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