An Indian American teenager, Niharika Iyer, was recently recognized by the Mt. Bethel Village – a local home for adults with special needs, located in Warren township, in New Jersey.
Iyer is a junior at Watchung Hills Regional High School.
The recognition was for creating a one of kind art therapy program for the autistic adult residents at Mt. Bethel Village, according to a report the facility put out.
Iyer has been running this program for the last two years.
“A high school junior, volunteering her time, has brought creativity, comradery and joy to the adult residents of Mt. Bethel Village for almost two years in an extraordinary commitment of service to others,” Mt. Bethel Village noted.
Iyer first reached out to Mt. Bethel Executive Director Carolann Garafola in 2017 with a desire to bring art projects to its developmentally disabled adults.
The projects were designed to be done in two or three hours and could be taken back to each adult’s apartment to be enjoyed later. They grew beyond day projects and are now part of the fabric of life at Mt. Bethel Village, located in Warren.
“During the month of April, Ms. Iyer continues visiting MBV, completing to date more than 22 projects over 66 hours on-site with countless additional hours of prep time including the purchase of materials. The projects are planned, in writing, and tied to seasonal events and holidays and are tailored to each individual’s capabilities”, Mt. Bethel Village noted.
“Through these activities, Nina has taken time out of her weekends to come on-site to motivate our adults to create their own art,” said Garafola. “She also encouraged and helped them learn how to get along in a group, how to clean up after the activity, how to have fun with art and how to be proud of what they accomplished.”
“Niharika has grown tremendously through this experience that will be a part of her forever,” S N Suresh, her father, was quoted as saying.
Garafola has recommended Ms. Iyer for recognition by the National Honor Society.
“She did not get glory on a sports field, on a stage, but in the quiet walls of MBV,” she wrote. “For a young woman to initiate such a project took a lot of fortitude, strength and commitment as working with adults with special needs is very challenging.”