Spend 5 minutes with William Brennen, and it’ll be clear that the 16-year-old Nanuet High School student tells it like it is. No hyperbole here. So when he told me all about how his past two summers at the Rockland Jewish Family Service’s teen camp have helped him come out of his shell get more comfortable making friends, I take him at his word.
Brennen just wrapped up the six-week Total Teen Experience, one of three camps the Rockland Jewish Family Service organization holds for kids on the autism spectrum, including those with Asperger’s Syndrome, and others who need extra support building social skills.
He said in two summers at the camp he’s become adept at handling casual conversations with his peers and adults, rather than shying away from interactions all together, as he might have done in the past.
The camp is set up like an extended entrepreneurial training program — students take turns serving different roles in a business they create and work together to turn a profit. Brennen and his team sold baked goods this summer and he spent time doing marketing, finance and (his favorite) baking.
They also created a video project and did other activities that promote social skills, self-expression through art, basic nutrition and exercise.
The camp is one of a host of offerings by the Rockland Jewish Family Service nonprofit; it also provides family counseling, a Kosher food pantry, Holocaust survivor support and mental health services. It is headquartered at the JCC Rockland on West Nyack Road.
Check out the video for more from Brennen: