Many of the world’s greatest ideas were first captured on a napkin: Southwest Airlines, the Harry Potter book series, Seattle’s iconic Space Needle, etc. Similarly, the idea for a learning center for disabled adults, My Possibilities, also began on a napkin. Three mothers, determined to provide quality and loving care for their learning-disabled, adult children, got together in June of 2007 at a local Starbucks to brainstorm about the kind of care they wanted to see for their own children and others like them. In its design, this place would be very different, as it would provide continuing education, would grow their children and offer vocational training. Just because formal school had stopped for these now adults, it did not mean that every day could not provide an opportunity to learn new skills.
Charmaine Solomon, one of the founding mothers and the organization’s president, notes, “During that time, I had never been more afraid. My special needs son was half way through his last year of high school in Plano, and when teachers would ask me my plans for my son, I had no answer. We had no idea what we were going to do.” She continues, “Together, with a couple of moms, we began investigating the options of day programs for adults with special needs. Honestly, we were quite horrified at our discovery. The list of antiquated options and outdated services was unimaginable, and I realized there just was not a suitable place for my son. We began to recognize the profound need, not only for ourselves, but for the community as a whole. It became something much bigger than we every imagined. This began our quest and ultimately our vision for My Possibilities.”
After holding numerous town hall meetings and fundraising activities, My Possibilities prepared to open its doors. It created a place for all special needs adults who had aged out of the public school system in North Texas. Their first location was a derelict building that volunteers worked diligently to make suitable for their needs. The team raised $200,000 and held more popcorn drives and bake sales than one could ever imagine. Then, a team of individuals renovated the building and prepared it for My Possibilities’ opening.
In the summer of 2008, the nonprofit organization officially began to serve 10 individuals, lovingly called “HIPsters” (Hugely Important People), each week with a volunteer staff. Soon, the organization experienced exponential growth within the center’s innovative program and they were able to hire full-time teachers and staff. Within five years, the organization had completely outgrown their initial facility, so the group relocated and expanded to their current location. Measuring 23,000 square feet, the staff created a school-like environment, complete with meaningful day programs, continuing education, vocational training and a safe place with dignity. Today, the organization serves more than 175 HIPsters every day and 350 families each week throughout Collin, Dallas, Tarrant and additional counties.
“The outpouring of support from the community has been quite overwhelming, and during this process, my faith has been greatly strengthened. Throughout all of the challenges and issues, I have seen God at work time and time again, opening doors and making it happen,” continues Ms. Solomon. “When we started, the need was urgent and great, and today, it remains the same. In our area, one out of three individuals has special needs, so this is tremendous. We know God is using just regular people to create and build My Possibilities.”
Different in what they offer, the organization continues to expand opportunities for their HIPsters, offering various programs in art, music, drama and now their My Possibilities University program. Focusing on giftedness, the goal of these programs is for individuals to aspire to their “highest possibility,” developing their interests and skills while realizing their specific unique potential.
Abby is one such HIPster who has found her purpose and passion at My Possibilities. Diagnosed on the autistic spectrum at an early age, Abby always had an interest in the arts and was able to minimally develop her skills through Plano ISD art classes. However, Abby desired to cultivate her own style, so her mother searched for a supplemental art-related program for her daughter. She discovered the summer CREATE program through My Possibilities.
Lena Carrera, the organization’s community outreach manager, explains, “Abby is a phenomenal artist, and since we advocated for her, she has bloomed in her ability and style. At the onset, we knew she had a high interest in visual arts, but her skill level jumped immensely over the months as she came to us full time. Her techniques only improved with each of her new pieces. Today, she is a prolific and highly-skilled artist, working on her own pieces and taking on commissions in our artist in residency program in CREATE. It is incredible.”
Another such My Possibilities success story focuses on Kyle, who completed the My Possibilities University Program, and as a result, is now working part time at the Sunrise Senior Living Center. Living with Down syndrome, Kyle is very smart and originally desired to develop his vocational skills. However, he came to My Possibilities as a very shy individual who had a difficult time interacting with his peers and others. The My Possibilities University Program allowed Kyle to develop himself personally and professionally, while honing his interview and resume writing skills. As part of the program, he worked off-site one day a week to practice exhibiting professional behavior. Since the completion of his trial at Sunrise Senior Living Center, the management requested for Kyle to return on a part-time basis, and currently, he is the assistant to the breakfast server. He is responsible for clearing breakfast and setting the dining room for lunch. Kyle’s hard work and dedication has not gone unnoticed. He was recognized as employee of the month in June of 2015. He was also awarded a plaque and given a raise at a breakfast in his honor.
“Through MP University, we have watched Kyle break out of his shell and engage with others successfully,” adds Ms. Carrera. “Kyle’s smile is contagious, and he brightens everyone’s mornings there. The program has been vital to Kyle’s progression and expansion as an individual.”
With minimal funding available, My Possibilities raises substantial funds annually through numerous fundraisers and activities, covering the current operating costs for all of their programs. One such opportunity will be the Santa Run Texas 2015 on Sat., Dec. 12, at 8 a.m., at the Dr Pepper Snapple Headquarters. Kids and adults can dress like Santa and participate in the 5K run or a one-mile walk. There is even more fun to be had at the family-friendly festival for the holiday season. Every participant will be provided a five-piece Santa suit during registration and can enjoy hot cocoa and coffee, live music, food trucks, a vendor village and Santa’s playground. Participants can even pay a visit to Santa! All of the proceeds from this event will benefit the HIPsters at My Possibilities.
“Fundraising opportunities like these are key to My Possibilities and they help bring awareness to our program,” notes Ms. Solomon. “Every one of our HIPsters is on a partial scholarship, so fundraisers like the Santa Run and our spring Community Ball are crucial to our success. We are so thankful to everyone who participates and supports us throughout the community. It is all about enriching these wonderful individuals’ lives, reminding them that every day counts and that they make a difference.”
There are numerous opportunities throughout the year for Frisco residents to team up with My Possibilities to volunteer and make a difference. To learn more about this unique organization, go to mypossibilities.org.