2020 was a tough year for everyone. The global COVID-19 pandemic forced students to adapt to online learning, non-profits and schools had to quickly pivot to virtual platforms, and everyone was burnt out on Zoom. Despite these challenges, Urban Autism Solutions not only grew but thrived in 2020. That's resilience.
In 2020, Urban Autism Solutions:
Was recognized by Governor J.B Pritzker at a press conference for its quick pivot to online programming at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic by developing one of the first virtual learning portals in the state. The virtual social and educational programs were designed for people with autism and related challenges and included a cooking club, graphic design instruction, a book club, history discussions and a support group for young women with autism and reached participants as far away as Poland and the UK.
Provided Chromebooks and one-year hotspot subscriptions for 50 young adults from Chicago Public Schools who attended our UAS West Side Transition Academy and needed these resources in order to continue learning.
Offered a 10-week virtual farm program to more than 60 adults from area CILAs and transition students from our partnering West Side Chicago public high schools. This program supplied participants with home gardening kits including containers, soil and seeds along with an online course led by Growing Solutions Farm's lead grower on how to grow and care for plants.
The UAS West Side Transition Academy continued to operate at full capacity in a 100 percent online format, expanding the number of students served by 74 percent. Students participated in speech/language therapy, social services, occupational training, job coaching, virtual job shadows and social/emotional skills instruction.
Twenty-five students participated virtually in the City of Chicago's Out of School Time and One Summer Chicago programs at Growing Solutions Farm. These programs developed social/emotional skills, provided job preparedness training and health and wellness modules.
Growing Solutions Farm had a record-breaking year. The farm doubled its sales as well as its growing capacity and donated 20 percent of its harvest to local food pantries via Grace Seeds Ministry which directly supports West Side residents and families.
The farm sold produce through a sold-out CSA program, at our on-site farm stand, at the West Loop Green City Market, and in partnership with UIC FRUIT, creating a pop-up farm stand for patients and visitors at the University of Illinois Hospital.