RICHMOND, Va. -- Breaking boundaries and opening doors -- a new Richmond nonprofit called Nest Academy is giving young adults with special needs opportunities many haven’t had before.
As part of CBS 6 Gives, reporter Shannon Lilly, joined them on a field trip to the James for a well-deserved surprise.
“When COVID hit, we all had to stay home. And these kids didn’t understand COVID,” said Founder of Nest Academy, Nora Carroll.
She spoke with CBS 6 Reporter, Shannon Lilly, from on board a pontoon boat on a late September morning.
It was the second time Nest Academy, in collaboration with Beyond Boundaries and The Department for Wildlife Resources, had made the field trip possible for young adults with special needs in their program.
“Due to the complexity of managing wheelchairs on boats, all of these students had little to no experience of being on the water,” said Carroll.
But on the morning of September 24, several Nest Academy students were wheeled onto the dock at Rockett’s Landing, where they received a hands-on lesson about electrofishing and different species of fish found in the James.
Students were given the opportunity to feel the fish before loading onto pontoon boats to watch the fishermen in action.
“Just to watch their excitement — especially in this COVID environment, giving them the opportunity to be out and socializing,” said Donna Hayes, the mother of Alex, a founding student in the program. “It really just reiterated that we are filling a need that’s been lacking for the young adult special need community.”
Carroll began forming the nonprofit in early May, after struggling to find a good post-high school program for her son Christopher.
Christopher has Cerebral Palsy, is non-verbal, and legally blind and deaf. Carroll said following graduation, she quickly realized there was a lack of options in programs for individuals with significant needs like his — so she’s working to fill that.
“We create the activity. We have a lesson plan we have a teacher there to provide a lesson,” said Carroll. “This is a field trip opportunity, so we did this in July. We did nice boating. We got to see some of the bird wildlife on the James, and we wanted to add a little different aspect to it. So, we added the fishing piece to it.”
While on the pontoon boat with Carroll and her son Christopher, CBS 6 Reporter Shannon Lilly surprised her with a donation for Nest Academy.
“It’s incredible what you guys are doing. And it’s so cool that I’ve seen it from the very beginning — which was only a few months ago,” said Lilly. “And look where you are now. So, we want to make a donation on behalf of CBS 6 Gives for your nonprofit.”
Carroll said the donation would help them to expand their program and invite other students.
“Thank you so much. This is wonderful,” said Carroll.
Families interested in joining the program or volunteering can contact Nest Academy here.
You can watch previous CBS 6 Gives segments here.