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ED-ESP 321 – “THRIVE”-ing Through Service

Sierra Cole, Kayla Hopkins, Jalette Peterson, Marina Ebrahimpour
Erin Tanzer – ED-ESP 321

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By completing service learning in conjunction with the THRIVE program at the YMCA, our group had the goal of learning from those in our community. We wanted to gain insight about individuals in the community participating in THRIVE  to better understand their needs. We also wanted to learn
what we as community members can do to help address needs. While working with families, we aimed to foster respectful and collaborative relationships that benefit all parties involved.

Community Partner: THRIVE at YMCA

THRIVE, which stands for Together Helping Realize Inclusive Victories Everyday, is an organization that allows neurodiverse children the opportunity to participate in an array of recreational activities and events.

THRIVE Mission Statement:

“We strengthen the foundations of community by developing successful youth, engaging people in healthy living, and instilling a commitment to social responsibility”

Project Purpose/Community Identified Need:

By volunteering at THRIVE, we provided aid to instructors during activities such as adaptive dance, cooking lessons, and AquAbility. Our varied experiences gave us opportunities to help participants learn dances, provide encouragement, engage in swimming instruction, and facilitate a positive, inviting environment.

Course Concepts

Seven principles of partnerships and trust:

Trust, communication, respect, advocacy, professional competence, commitment and equality.

Our team’s varied experiences with THRIVE were supported by the course concepts and ideas we learned about collaboration. The goal was to build trusting partnerships through respect and communication. This was accomplished with families, volunteers coordinators, volunteers and service providers.

Our team’s various perspectives made each experience unique but overall we all recognized the benefits of community involvement. It was a great opportunity for our team to get to learn about the unique lives of individuals with disabilities and their families, participating in THRIVE events. The program also gave us a chance to envision the impact we could have as future educators and advocates beyond the classroom. We are all committed to continue developing the professional competence required to support and empower our students and community.


Kayla: In my time completing service learning with THRIVE, I have learned that all different types of people volunteer at THRIVE and all types of families come in to attend THRIVE activities. It was inspiring to see how THRIVE comes together to make everyone feel included and fills a massive need in our community. This experience has been immensely important to me and has inspired me to explore other avenues through which I can help our community.

Sierra: I valued my time as a volunteer and felt that it was valued by participants, families, and staff as well. In the adaptive dance program, where I spent most my time, I enjoyed getting to know participants and all their unique personalities. As we all go in our own educational directions, I believe that our experiences with THRIVE will be remembered and we’ll be reminded of the importance of giving back to our respective communities.

Jalette: Through volunteering at THRIVE, I learned the importance of inclusion and adaptive opportunities for neurodiverse people. Spending time with the families participating in THRIVE also allowed me to see the importance of volunteer opportunities within my community

Marina: I learned about community resources for individuals with disabilities and their families. The value of engaging with the opportunities to volunteer not only for for the families we serve no matter how small our role is.


We provided service through volunteering in the THRIVE program at the YMCA. Below are some of the programs we volunteered in.

Adaptive Dance: We observed the children as they practiced a dance routine they were preparing for an audience. We also supported them in decorating the shirts they planned to wear while performing.

AquAbility: We spoke with families about their and their child’s experience in this program as their child participated in adaptive swim lessons.

A children's play area.

Dessert Decorating: We baked and decorated cookies with children. While waiting for the cookies to bake, we went to the climbing structure and played.


The families and participants of THRIVE were very appreciate of our volunteer work within the program. They appear to be grateful for the opportunities the program provides for physical activity and interaction with members of the community.

This work provides individuals with the opportunity to connect with others and move their bodies, thus meeting the needs of the community. This gives families the opportunity to observe their loved one participating in fun activities that aid in skill development and growth, as well as the comfortability in knowing their loved one is being cared for as they take a quick break from their caregiving responsibilities.