By Amy Daybert Herald Writer
MARYSVILLE — Angi Wilson wants to help her autistic teenage son become more confident.
She wants him to know about the area he lives in and be able to venture out into the community to grocery shop, check out library books and ride a bus on his own.
Those skills, Wilson said, are exactly what her son, Parker Banks, 15, is learning in the Life Skills Program at Marysville Pilchuck High School, along with about 50 other students with developmental disabilities.
“Parker’s not going to live on his own but he’s going to have to learn how to be independent in some ways,” she said. “The success for Life Skills students depends on getting out of the classroom and into the community to learn hands-on.”
At a parent meeting at the school in October, Wilson learned that while the Marysville School District is able to provide some transportation for the Life Skills Department, a van would be useful for more frequent opportunities for students. She decided to start a nonprofit, Parker’s Cure, to raise funds for a program van.
A van is something Life Skills teacher Jim Strickland said he has wanted for years.
“Some teachers in the general education populations need the money for books,” he said. “We don’t need money for curriculum, we need money for community access. That’s our curriculum. It’s just as important as a geometry book is to a math teacher.”
The district provides buses so students can leave school four times a week, Strickland said. They take routine trips to volunteer at the Marysville Community Food Bank, visit the Marysville Library, go grocery shopping and participate in recreational activities like bowling. “I think (those routes) are going to do us well for the year, but there are always those opportunities that come up unexpectedly where you want to take advantage of them,” he said.
Strickland used his own vehicle to transport several students to a coffee klatsch hosted by Marysville Mayor Jon Nehring last year. He and four students visited people at the Tulalip Senior Center on Friday and he used his personal vehicle to make the experience happen. While he doesn’t mind using his own van, Strickland said it’s not always an option.
A silent auction organized by Wilson and held at the school in December raised $1,500 toward a wheelchair accessible van that is estimated to cost about $15,000, Strickland said. Wilson hopes it’s only a start and that she and other parents of disabled children at the school can raise more money to fund the van through other events, and through donations made to an account called “Parker’s Cure” set up at US Bank branches.
Even after their goal of getting a van is realized, Wilson said, she’ll use the nonprofit to help the Life Skills Program educate students like her son, and her 6-year-old daughter, Katie, who also has special needs. Both she and Strickland would like to see iPad technology introduced as part of school curriculum to help students who have difficulties communicating verbally. For instance, special programs are being developed to help nonverbal autistic children express their needs and desires.
“Life is full of challenges, and sometimes we need to challenge ourselves,” Wilson said. “I want to make a difference to someone or something in my life. My kids are that difference and if I could help someone else along the way, why wouldn’t I?”
Wilson’s drive to make the van a reality for students in the program is inspiring, Strickland said.
“As much as they try, school districts and schools can’t do everything by themselves,” he said.” I think her enthusiasm has really sparked a lot of energy in our parent group and I see it absolutely transforming our programs and the opportunities that are going to be available for our kids.”
Amy Daybert: 425-339-3491; email@example.com.
How to Help
An account for people to make donations to funding a van for the Marysville Pilchuck Life Skills Program has been set up at US Bank under “Parker’s Cure.” More information about the nonprofit started by Marysville resident, Angi Wilson, can be found at www.facebook.com by searching “Parkers Cure.”