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Virtual Pilot Program: Creating Connections During COVID


Pilot Program participants during a Zoom music class.

Visiting families are a familiar scene at BHMA––easily identifiable by their wide eyes and eager expressions. As they listen in on ensemble rehearsals and observe students preparing meals in the teaching kitchen, they cannot help but imagine the possibilities for their own family. Tours and admissions visits have long been something to celebrate at BHMA, as they are an opportunity for our students to welcome new people into our community, and for others to experience our mission in action. When the pandemic began last spring and we closed our day program, our admissions activities were put on hold indefinitely. Facing many unknowns, months went by before we were able to offer something tangible to prospective individuals and their families.


The idea for the virtual Pilot Program arose out of a desire to offer an in-between solution for those interested in future enrollment at BHMA, but unable to complete the regular admissions process. Launched at the end of January with nine individuals, the thrice-weekly fully virtual program has provided an introduction to BHMA, its teachers, and general class expectations. As the weeks have gone by, participants have learned the basics of boundaries and communication with Life Skills Teacher Cindy Catuogno, and played songs together with Music Instructor Ben Rosenthal. From Self-Advocacy and Around the World, to Photography and Food & Cooking, the schedule has offered a taste of BHMA’s typical programming and allowed the nine individuals to connect with peers during what has been an isolating time for many. Establishing relationships with each other and with our program will act as a foundation for those accepted to the Two-Year Transition Program.


After several months and three sessions, the Virtual Pilot Program officially wrapped up in the middle of May. As the architect of the program Vice President of Admissions & Marketing Jackie Deiana reflects, “We’ve had so much fun this semester getting to know this great group of Pilot Program students. We're grateful to each participant for their willingness to try this online option with BHMA. Our staff have truly enjoyed it and we hope they have too.” The program’s conclusion signifies the beginning of the return to normalcy, with in-person tours and admissions visits resuming ahead of the start of the school year in September. There is much to look forward to at BHMA––new members of our community, and reignited possibilities.


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