For Dr. John and Mrs. Anne McKenzie, helping others is part of their daily lives. John, a retired interventional neuroradiologist, and Anne, a retired special education teacher, have been volunteering with the North Florida School of Special Education (NFSSE) since they moved to Jacksonville 22 years ago. The couple and their two sons have always been drawn to spending time with children with special needs, so volunteering with the NFSSE seemed like a natural fit.
Ever since it’s founding in 1992, NFSSE’s mission has been to improve the lives of students with mild to moderate intellectual disabilities through the achievement of academic, vocational, and social skills. The school accepts students with a variety of intellectual disabilities, including Autism Spectrum Disorder, Down Syndrome and Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.
Students between the ages of 6 and 22 are able to participate in a wide range of programs, including occupational therapy, vocational training, job coaching, culinary arts, music and more. Additionally, NFSSE offers a number of extracurricular activities that students can participate in, like yoga, a book club, running clubs and a technology club. Programming does not end when students graduate – NFSSE offers post-graduate vocational training that allows students to enrich their employment, independent living, and social skills.
John previously served as the President of the Board of Directors for the school, and Anne has been involved in the school’s fundraising efforts and now volunteers in art classes. Both John and Anne treasure the time they spend with NFSSE students. Anne loves seeing students thrive in the multitude of programs the school offers, and John gets great joy from interacting with the students he meets in the hallways and during lunch.
Not only do the McKenzies relish the opportunity to spend time with NFSSE students, they also believe wholeheartedly in the school’s mission. While speaking about why they believe in the importance of the NFSSE, Anne added, “NFSSE is a model educational program in Florida with students with special needs, focusing not only on the educational and physical development, but also incorporating a rich social and vocational program.” Others who are interested in furthering the school’s mission can help by volunteering for the school or for special events, donating, or providing a work site for NFSSE alumni who are integrating into the workplace.
Are you interested in volunteering with the North Florida School of Special Education or learning more about their mission? Visit www.northfloridaschool.org or call (904) 724-8323.
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