Mid-Michigan Industries partners with students to benefit developmentally disabled residents
Thirty-two year old Heather Naessens bounced her knees as she adjusted herself into the warrior pose.
“Shake it, but don’t break it!” the Mount Pleasant resident joked to her fellow developmentally disabled participants as a chuckle broke out in the room.
This was Naessens' second time participating in Mid-Michigan Industries’ weekly yoga class this semester, led by Central Michigan University student volunteers.
“I am volunteering here as part of the 180 hours required for therapeutic recreation majors,” said Bay City junior Maeling Groya.
The yoga facilitator said it’s rewarding to give people with developmental disabilities the opportunity to engage in yoga.
About 90 people, ranging from in age from 18 to 81 years old, are guided under Mid-Michigan Industries’ mission of enriching lives through employment, training and community, said Community Connections Supervisor Laurie Matties.
Heather Naessens stretches in a yoga class Wednesday afternoon at Mid-Michigan Industries, 2426 Parkway Dr. Every Wednesday a yoga class is run by student volunteers for mentally disabled adults. MMI serves as a training, employment and community foundation for people with barriers. (Tanya Moutzalias/Staff Photographer)
“We work with a lot of different people who just either want employment or to access their community and want some training,” she said. “This particular program focuses on leisure and volunteer activities.”
Mount Pleasant resident Dawn Feltin demonstrated the “tree” pose as she described her favorite part of the hour-long yoga session.
“I also like stretching your legs and breathing in my belly,” the 43-year-old said.
New Baltimore sophomore Nicole Socia said she finds doing the work rewarding.
“I’ve never worked this closely with adults with disabilities,” she said. “You get to know how to handle it as a recreation therapist, and I think it’s good to know that in advance.”
With a loose grip on her chair, Naessens transitioned herself to a seat on the floor and began reaching for her pointed toes.
“Stretch those legs,” Groya instructed.
The group of 11 followed every move of the CMU students, who positioned themselves around the room, lending a hand of assistance if necessary.
“You always have to be on your toes,” Groya said.
In preparation for the Special Olympics, 51-year-old Mount Pleasant resident Danny McGenuis said yoga will help him get ready.
Matties said the participants benefit from doing the gentle exercise.
“This has truly been a win-win situation for us,” Matties said. “The students have made some great friendships with the persons served.”