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ARC of Palm Beach Co. program getting national attention

Posted at 2:21 PM, Jan 19, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-20 04:25:01-05

RIVIERA BEACH, Fla. -- The ARC of Palm Beach County is getting national attention.

One of its programs for helping children and adults with developmental disabilities is being praised for the way the mentors communicate with students.

High school senior Marina Bertuzzelli has a way of making Frankie Boza laugh. "They are just so grateful for us to be there and it warms my heart so much to see them, like the smiles on their faces," she says.

As she spends time with him, her sister Mia is mentoring Jason Legienza.

The sisters are part of the "Stand Up" program at The ARC of Palm Beach County, that has teens helping students with developmental disabilities.

Mia said, "I've learned different ways to teach people, this is what you can do around someone who has a disability and it helps them to engage with that person in their everyday life."

The program is now getting national attention among more than 600 ARC chapters across the country.

Grace McCauley with the program said, "A lot of it is communication and social interaction. That's the really big point of why they are there to create inclusion in our program and really engage with them whether it be speaking, playing, having fun creating imagination."

Not only is it a great mentoring program for the volunteers, but also builds relationships between the teenagers and the kids they're helping.

Marina said, "I think that there's a lot of stigma towards people with disabilities. When I come in, I'm like, they are just like us."

"Being a part of this program has allowed me to tell my friends about it and it's made them more comfortable being around someone with a disability because they realize they are no different than we are," said Mia.

Click here if you would like to volunteer with The Arc of Palm Beach County.