“Weather Lady” and so much more…
By Beth Volpert Johansen
Walking into Creative Enterprises in Lawrenceville will make you smile. No doubt, it is one of the happiest places on earth.
The smiling faces of clients at picnic tables outside, lush plants crawling past the fencing of the plant sales nursery, and brightly colored artwork in the lobby all mix to create the joyful atmosphere that is Creative Enterprises, Inc. -an adult special needs day facility.
Left: Special Photo Creative Enterprises Clients checking the weather station outside.
Adding to the festive atmosphere is meteorologist, Jennifer Narramore who provides instruction in all things weather. Her job at CEI combines her love of all things weather and her passion for working with the special populations community.
As a meteorologist with The Storm Report, Jennifer is on call 24/7 to provide live and recorded reports and warnings for radio and online stations across the country. Formerly with The Weather Channel, Jennifer now spends time reporting the weather and teaching her favorite audience about how to forecast and prepare for all types of weather. “Many people with disabilities may not know how to dress for a particular forecast,” says Jennifer. “I want to help them understand what is appropriate clothing to wear for any element.” More importantly, Jennifer is developing programs to help teach those with cognitive disabilities how to prepare for and remain safe in any type of weather.
Right: Special Pops Tennis
Collecting data for weather-related learning has been made more engaging with Creative Enterprises, Inc.’s own weather station located just outside their greenhouse. Participants learn to gather the data and add it to their Facebook page Creative Enterprises-Weather Station. They like to add a little personality into the forecasts which makes learning engaging. “We like to have fun with it and sometimes do themed forecasts like the day we chose The Seven Dwarfs to ‘substitute’ for us.” Of course, Sneezy and Dopey gave the pollen forecast that day.
In class, the clients talk about everything from weather fronts to geography. “Because I am on call 24/7, these guys know when there is a weather event going on in one of my service areas,” says Jennifer. “They get very excited and want to see where the event is taking place.” Because of the unpredictable nature of weather, Jennifer keeps a spare microphone at CEI just in case she needs to record a warning or forecast right away. “I take one of these guys in with me while I do the recording or live report so they can see what is really involved in broadcasting.”
Creative Enterprises Executive Director, Leigh McIntosh is delighted with the program and has found her clients to have a variety of interests connected to the weather. “I love that Jennifer makes the classes fun,” says Leigh. “If you turn learning into a fun activity, our clients blossom.” Providing hands-on activities allows the clients to put learning into practice.
Left: Creative Enterprises Clients checking the weather station outside.
Jennifer’s plans are to continue building a curriculum to serve the needs of special populations with regard to recognizing, understanding and planning for weather events. “Many people with special needs struggle with anxiety and weather events can produce anxiety for anyone,” says Jennifer. “Our goal is to help alleviate that anxiety by teaching and training clients what to do in any type of weather.”
Beyond the classroom and weather reporting, Jennifer also finds room in her heart and schedule for a very special kind of tennis. As the site coordinator for Special Pops Tennis at Summit Chase Country Club, Jennifer fills a variety of roles. “I have participated in the Special Olympics and Special Pops events as a coach, captain, umpire, and unified partner,” says Jennifer. A unified partner is a doubles partner to an athlete and it is one of Jennifer’s most cherished roles. “I have played with my buddy Tommy for the past 6 years at the Special Olympics and other tournaments.”
The Special Olympics is just one aspect that Special Pops Tennis brings to the lives of athletes and their families. Training is provided in the spring to prepare athletes for the Special Olympics on all skill levels and at all ages. Practice and training build confidence, strength, and social skills for participants. With close to 30 athletes on the roster, the Summit Chase Country Club location was able to send 8 athletes to the Special Olympics Summer Games where they came away with several gold medals.
The Weather Crew looking at weather data and conditions with Jennifer
“In 2015, we practiced on Thursday evenings and Saturday afternoons,” says Jennifer. “We had nearly as many volunteers as athletes which was wonderful!” The SCCC site also hosts a month of fall practices to give their athletes a little extra practice. “I love being a part of Special Pops Tennis,” says Jennifer. “They are a wonderful organization providing a great opportunity for the special needs community to learn the game of tennis and to be able to grow in the game. Also, tennis is a great way to build social skills and teamwork.”
Building social skills and learning teamwork go hand-in-hand on a daily basis for Jennifer Narramore in all of her “special” endeavors. By the faces and excited voices in her classroom, it is evident that Jennifer’s classes are popular. The ability to combine social skills, geography, weather, and technology into one class makes “The Weather Lady” extremely popular. "We have plans to track hurricanes during the season and continue to provide weather content on our Facebook page" says Jennifer. This engages Kodi’s attention in the classroom. “Ms. Jennifer, you mean like a thumbtack on a map?” she asks. And Jennifer smiles when she answers, “Exactly Kodi, that is just the way it is done.”
With very special enthusiasm playing a huge part in the process, Jennifer Narramore and her friends at Creative Enterprises, Inc. will no doubt create an engaging curriculum that will benefit the special needs community for many years and keep Gwinnett County "in the know" about all things weather. And when she isn’t teaching her friends at CEI, Jennifer can be found on the courts coaching the next great athletes of Special Pops Tennis as they prepare for the 2016 Special Olympics season. “The possibilities for learning, engaging, and growing while monitoring the weather or learning to play a game are endless-the participants love to learn and I love to teach them.”