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Luzerne County Head Start, Leadership Northeast hold ribbon cutting for Beekman Street sensory room

Luzerne County Head Start, Leadership Northeast hold ribbon cutting for Beekman Street sensory room

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Soft hues of purple and blue surround Luzerne County Head Start children as they take off their shoes and walk on the padded floor of a new sensory room at the Beekman Street Center in Wilkes-Barre. When the classroom feels overwhelming, it’s there to help students calm down.

From there, the children can unwind in a compression “canoe” that feels like a hug, busy their hands and minds with a sensory toy, or quietly read a book with their teacher about the emotions they’re feeling. The safe, calming environment is meant to help children with self-regulation and relaxation so they can be prepared to learn and interact with others.

As a response to the heightened social-emotional needs of young children, particularly since the COVID-19 pandemic, the Head Start Heroes team of Leadership Northeast Core Class of 2024 collaborated with Luzerne County Head Start to give students a way to cope. Last Friday, they celebrated the completion of the agency’s first-ever sensory room with a ribbon cutting.

Head Start Heroes included Chelsey Coslett, Northeastern Pennsylvania Industrial Resource Center (NEPIRC); Michele Duris, Step by Step, Inc.; Amy Hoyt, Building Blocks Learning Center; AJ Jump, F.M. Kirby Center; Chris Mayerski, Wilkes University; Jaclyn Reisser, Mobiniti; and Rebecca Thomas, Empower. 

“Seeing the room in its completeness today is extremely emotional, but even more emotional than that was seeing the kids go in it for the first time,” Coslett told the local media. 

Head Start Heroes completed the sensory room for the Community Impact Project component of their Leadership experience. They hosted the Tunes for Tots benefit concert at River Street Jazz Cafe in April to fundraise for the project and invited supporters to make monetary donations or purchase items for the sensory room directly from an Amazon Wish List.

Along with consulting Luzerne County Head Start leadership and staff, the team visited sensory rooms at Beyond Behavior and Mohegan Sun Arena for expertise and inspiration. Once the team hit their fundraising goal, they painted the room, put down the flooring, designed the layout and finally, set up the sensory items. 

The sensory room will benefit all children at the Beekman Street Center for years to come, especially those with high needs. Beekman Street is the agency’s largest center, and its sensory room will serve as a model for other sites. Luzerne County Head Start staff will receive training on how to best utilize the sensory room. 

“Words really cannot express the impact this experience has had on us and how much we’ve enjoyed the whole entire process,” Hoyt told the crowd at the ribbon cutting. “When our team initially met, we knew we wanted to create an impact on the community that would last, and what better way than to invest in children and impact not just today’s children, but hopefully generations to come.” 

Others in attendance included representatives from the offices of Senator Bob Casey, Representative Matt Cartwright, and Senator Marty Flynn, Wilkes-Barre Mayor George Brown, officials from the Greater Wyoming Valley Chamber of Commerce and community members. Senator Flynn’s office presented Luzerne County Head Start and Leadership Northeast with a certificate of recognition from the Senate of Pennsylvania.

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