Pizza Parties: DO-IT Family Reunions

Tami Tidwell, DO-IT Staff

Developing social skills and relationships in a variety of situations is a big part of self-determination and success. DO-IT Pizza Parties, held each fall and spring, are perfect opportunities to put some of those social skills to work and develop strong and lasting relationships. Through a statewide K-20 telecommunications system, we connect DO-IT Pizza Party participants from several locations throughout the state. Below, DO-IT Scholars, Mentors, and staff share their strategies, perspectives, and experiences.

Bella, a 2005 Scholar, offers advice to those who might be feeling a little nervous about attending. "The way I usually deal with specific social situations in which I am feeling anxiety is by giving myself permission to take a break. I get overwhelmed easily, especially with lots of loud noises and crowds of people. That night at the [fall] pizza party I just went outside the room [to get some space]. [Once in a quieter space] often I'll do counting and breathing, which helps me to calm myself. Once I gather myself together, I can return to the situation in a better frame of mind. Often I'll speak to my aid who is there with me, or sometimes I tell her to go away because I want to work through it alone. It's really important for me to listen to my inner voice when it says it's time for a break. Trusting yourself is essential. It's really important to know that everyone at DO-IT is supportive and understands these types of issues. There is nothing to be afraid of because DO-IT is a really great program."

Charity, a DO-IT Mentor, has a very different experience to share, "Pizza Parties for me are like going home for Christmas (but without all the turmoil). I am such an extrovert that meeting new people is a battery-recharging experience."

According to Ben, "Attending a DO-IT Pizza Party is always a rewarding experience for us as student staff in the DO-IT office. The event gives us a chance to connect new faces with names and have face-to-face interactions that are not possible from behind a phone. There are always new people to meet, familiar faces to reconnect with, and interesting facts to discover. This past Pizza Party, I was amazed by 2006 Scholar Taylor who blew my mind with his uncanny knowledge of geography! The Pizza Party is a great opportunity for us to transcend our office roles and create relationships with our student peers in the DO-IT program. There is a community atmosphere which makes this an event every staff member, parent, Scholar, or friend can benefit from attending."

As a staff member, I look forward to the Pizza Party for weeks. I enjoy receiving the RSVPs and getting the DO-IT office ready for the fifty-plus visitors. Seeing Scholars from 1993-present is fantastic. When there is a table of people playing a game, a bunch of people hanging out chatting, a few people signing paperwork, and parents together connecting, I know it is a successful night.