Salisbury Academy brings Christmas cheer to Rowan Vocational Opportunities

Published 12:01 am Thursday, December 22, 2022

SALISBURY — If the greatest joy of the holiday season comes from spreading cheer to others, then the students at Salisbury Academy got a tremendous dose of Christmas spirit.

Seventh and eighth grade students from the school visited Rowan Vocational Opportunities on Dec. 14 to bring donations from their item drive and to host a Christmas party with games, snacks and crafts.

Rowan Vocational Opportunities, Inc. is a nonprofit rehabilitation facility that provides work adjustment, vocational training and long-term or transitory employment and life skills for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities.

“The joy of it is a mutual satisfaction,” said Wilson Cherry, director of community affairs. “The students at Salisbury Academy have an opportunity to work with people who are differently abled.

“It also puts us in a position where our students get to interact with abled people. The key word here is Rowan Vocational ‘Opportunities.’ These guys have opportunities that they would not normally have.”

Cherry traces the origins of the Christmas party back to a fortuitous invitation.

“Greg Alcorn invited me over to speak to the Salisbury Academy Board,” Cherry said. “The people were so receptive and kind to us, and they asked what they could do. Then, Heather Coulter (Salisbury Academy Director of Curriculum and Instruction) was willing to come over and bring a group. It was a small group, probably 12-15 students. Then they started bringing gifts.

“The folks at Salisbury Academy have been so kind and gracious, and it has grown every year. The kindness rendered is appreciated and is truly a blessing for all of us.”

Like many festive folks, Salisbury Academy personnel started planning for the Christmas party right after Turkey Day.

“After Thanksgiving, we start asking for donations for personal items they may need,” Coulter said. “Our families are so generous. The kids and families make this happen.”

Due to precautions during the COVID pandemic, this was the first Christmas party since 2019.

“The last couple of years didn’t really feel like Christmas because we were not able to be here,” Coulter said. “I think that this relationship is so important for both of us, and our community too.”

Salisbury Academy Director of Marketing and Communications Lizzy Roy indicated that students could start participating in the Christmas party as early as fifth grade.

“It’s seventh and eighth grade students who come every year, but then there is also a group of fifth and sixth graders who help plan the party,” Roy said. “So, we have some different representatives from different grades here.”

The students set up and run stations at the party for everything from ring toss to cookie decorations to a photo booth.

“It was fun,” eighth grader Laila Montgomery said. “We all got together in groups. We got to set up everything. It was really cool.”