Waving My Magic Wand 

I want to wave a magic wand. 

To make dreams happen; change lives, and give an extraordinary cadre of special young people a bright and lasting future. 

This story is about the magic I would want to weave because I’ve seen it firsthand in my own son’s life. I’m talking about CrossingPoints Summer Bridge, an eight-week summer program at the University of Alabama that enriches and lifts young adults with special needs to a whole new level. This program helps transition these young students into adulthood and independence. I rejoice at what those eight weeks have accomplished for my son, who is about to turn 21. I want to wave my magic wand to help make this program a year-round program. 

That’s where the magic would come in. Can you imagine if we could multiply those eight weeks 6.5 times and let them build on one another what an impact that would have on these special needs kids and their families? 

Magic, I’ve been told by the person who heads the program, can happen. To begin with, it would take written articulation and approval of the program at several levels, demonstrated deliverables, implementation of a plan to achieve sustainability, and greater financial support for scholarships to help offset costs for otherwise qualified students who might not be able to attend the program without some financial aid.

The sooner, the better. 

As the dad of a special needs son, I'm always thinking on two levels — how such offerings can enrich my own son and make his life better, and how many other kids could benefit if these programs were broader in scope and they had the opportunity to participate in them. Our family is lucky — my wife and I have the awareness and ability to take advantage of such programs. But we are among the minority of special needs families here in Alabama. I think about the families who face the same struggles that we do who may not have the means, the awareness, or the opportunity to take advantage of programs such as Crossing Points.

This issue came riveting back to me when we took Trot back to the University of Alabama for his second term at CrossingPoints Summer Bridge. Trot’s roommate last year, who Trot loved and we came to adore, made such an impact on him. Every time we would talk to Trot on the phone, his roommate was always in the background, asking to talk to us. For Trot’s birthday, his roommate, with little financial means, gave Trot four dollars and gave him a kiss. This kid was a bright spot in the program and needed to be there.

This year, when we dropped Trot off, this young man wasn’t there.

I learned that last year this student attended CrossingPoints Summer Bridge on a partial scholarship that supplemented the student costs not covered by the federal grant. Specifically, students attending the CrossingPoints Summer Bridge program have to pay for room and board plus books. The federal grant that the University received to enhance and expand the CrossingPoints program makes it possible for 10 new students to attend the program at a relatively low cost each year of the funded period.

This year because of the growth of the program, the grant wasn’t available for second year students and the price tag for this program is hefty. Trot’s roommate wasn’t able to come back this year due to the cost. 

My magic wand tells me that the first thing we need is a broadened pool of financial support to allow this extraordinary program to widen its scope and reach more families. 

Now, let me pause for a moment and tell you what this program has done and is doing for my son. 

Trot’s self-esteem, self-confidence and physical being have been made better because of CrossingPoints. He’s received freedom and wonderful social connections with other students. A feeling of acceptance and a sense of love that you feel from a family. CrossingPoints stimulates its students’ best parts — it uncovers hidden ability and focuses on honing those. 

Last summer, as part of the program, Trot worked at Student Recreation at the University of Alabama. His job was to check ID cards of students coming to workout as they entered the building. Last year, there were several University of Alabama students who came through the Rec center that recognized Trot from high school. They were so excited to see him. He experienced an acceptance that he hasn’t had before. 

Trot is back for his second year at CrossingPoints and I can’t wait to see the growth in him that will inevitably result. So, here I am back with my magic wand, a baton of dreams. My vision is this: that a group of people will come together, rally around the program, work with the University, provide the funding, create the awareness, tell its story so that one day all special needs children who aspire to attend college and their families will have access to CrossingPoints. I know this would be the ultimate crossing point in the life and destiny of their special needs children. 

That would be pure magic.