Penn State alumna Lauren Lomas, who earned her bachelor's degree in human development and family studies at the Brandywine campus in 2015, always saw herself working with children after graduation, until an opportunity with Kaleidoscope Family Solutions, Inc. (KFS) became available.
“We support adults with autism and intellectual disabilities through one-on-one home- and community-based supports,” said Lomas, who serves as a training coordinator at the organization. “I quickly discovered that I love supporting adults and helping them reach their goals to become more independent.”
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, KFS hosted weekly, in-person activities for clients that improved skills related to socialization, money management, cooking and more. When Pennsylvania went into quarantine due to coronavirus, the organization started holding its weekly activities virtually through Zoom, a remote video conferencing service.
“We hold up to four Zoom activities each day,” Lomas said. “For example, we’ve had cooking classes where individuals make nachos, banana bread, coffee cake and omelets, just to name a few, alongside a Zoom host.”
The activity group that Lomas personally runs each week is a “game night,” which helps to improve socialization skills among participants.
“The most rewarding thing about running the activity groups through Zoom has been seeing the friendships that have blossomed among our participants,” she said. “The Zoom activities have included individuals from all across Pennsylvania. Some participants are even connecting outside of the Zoom activities. The friendships and support systems that have been built during these remote activities have been so valuable. Knowing that my work makes a difference by directly helping others, keeps me motivated and puts a smile on my face.”
Lomas said that there have certainly been technical challenges throughout the remote activity process, however, one unanticipated positive outcome has been “participants have learned how to effectively use new technology,” she said.
The initiative has been so successful that Lomas and KFS plan to continue offering the Zoom sessions in some capacity even after they return to in-person activities, keeping the relationships that participants have made intact.
“Our clients have really taken the lead in some of the groups, which is great to see,” she said. “They have gone above and beyond to support each other and keep each other motivated throughout this pandemic.”
During her time as a student, Lomas was an involved member of the campus community. She was a Schreyer Honors Scholar and conducted undergraduate research alongside Associate Professor of Human Development and Family Studies Jennifer Zosh in the Brandywine Child Development Lab.
“Brandywine really prepared me for the challenges that I face in my career,” Lomas said. “As a Schreyer Honors Scholar, I had the opportunity to tailor my coursework in creative ways to focus on what I was passionate about. Those opportunities really help me stay creative in my role with Kaleidoscope Family Solutions, from training new staff members to leading Zoom activities.”