The Little Things Make the Biggest Difference

I am proud of VMware’s focus and commitment to our EPIC2 values. EPIC2 stands for Execution, Passion, Integrity, Customers and Community. More on our EPIC2 values can be found here. This article focuses on the Community aspect of these values.

I am honored to be the President and Board member of the Clarence Schools Enrichment Foundation (CSEF Inc.). CSEF Inc. is a non-profit 501c3 foundation that raises funds to enhance the education experiences of the students in the Clarence School District. I wanted to share this story because I was recently moved by the results of our funded grants. Each year CSEF supports the funding of two grant cycles, one in the fall and one in the spring. We also consider and support various special requests throughout the year. More information about our foundation can be found at www.clarenceschoolfund.org.

During the fall of 2016, we received 25 grant applications totaling over $34,000. Unfortunately, we cannot fund all requests. Each request is reviewed and scored by a committee comprised of business and community members.  The committee then provides recommendations back to the CSEF board. This fall there were two grants that we funded for the equipment to build sensory rooms in the Clarence Center Elementary and Harris Hill Elementary Schools.

On Monday February 13th, I attended the Clarence School District Board of Education (BOE) meeting where the Clarence Center Elementary Principal, Colleen Coggins, and Anne Marie Olczak an Occupational Therapist, presented to the Board the Clarence Center Elementary School Sensory Room. Before the presentation to the board, I was able to see the room for myself where I met a student who was preparing for his presentation. Although this grant was only for $1000, I immediately saw the impact it had on this student and how appreciative and excited he was. In talking with both Ms. Coggins and Ms. Olczak I knew they also appreciated the grant. He showed me around the room, the items we purchased, how they are used, and I even got to play a little catch with him using the weighted ball.

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During the presentation to the BOE, Ms. Coggins and Ms. Olczak went through their presentation explaining the purpose of the sensory room, who will use it, and the activities the kids will partake in. They reviewed the sensory activities that will impact touch, sight, hearing, smell and taste. They also explained the vestibular as well as proprioceptive activities which will be implemented as strategies within the sensory room.  I was back in elementary school learning once more.

The sensory room can be used by students that are dealing with stress, sensitivity to touch and sounds, fear of crowds, hyperactivity, trouble with balance and several other conditions that we would normally dismiss.  The goal of the sensory room is to proactively manage students struggling with focus, attention, self-control. They will teach the student how to manage and self-regulate their emotions and modulate their movements. The school phycologist and principal in coordination with the occupational therapist will be involved in the referral process. The occupational therapist will also be involved in assisting and training staff members.

After the BOE presentation, we all took a short walk to the sensory room where the student I previously met delivered an excellent presentation of the room to the BOE and attendees of the meeting. With his 3×5 cards in hand, he read through his notes with fearless precision, showed us each device and how it is used, then dazzled us with solving a rubik’s cube in less than 2 minutes, mostly without looking at it and carrying on a conversation. Needless to say we were all impressed. I hope to see him on the stage at VM World in 15 years or so.

I am happy to see how $1000 can make a huge difference in the lives of children and it really motivates me to do more. Clarence Center is not the first Elementary School to do this in the district. There is another in flight that also received a fall grant from CSEF that we are waiting with anticipation on how that will turn out.

VMware continues to support efforts like this and many more globally. I am happy to be part of an organization that embraces the ‘community’ ethos and encourages their employees to do the same. The VMware Foundation also matches employee donations which helps the charities that employees contribute to.

So next time you are asked to participate or volunteer in a local organization, remember that a small amount, whether it is financial or by donating your time, will go a long way.