Caring for Caregivers: An Interview with Judy and Ms. Desmangles

I sat down with Judy Jerome, Vice President of Pongo Power, and Ms. Dulyne Desmangles, Assistant Principal of Wadleigh Secondary School of the Performing & Visual Arts, to talk about how they are teaming up for the upcoming fundraising event, Care for Caregivers.

The Care for Caregivers fundraiser is raising money for an emergency fund for the families of students at Wadleigh Secondary School of the Performing & Visual Arts; the money will be available to help as needs arise. Save the date! March 31st from 1 - 5 pm. The day will be filled with fun events.

This blog is about the connection between Wadleigh and Pongo Power and how the idea of teaming up came together. We'll discover what is so very special about these two communities, why Pongo Power is hosting this event, and what we can expect for the future of this partnership.

Wadleigh

The Personal Connection between Pongo Power and Wadleigh

Judy and Ms. Desmangles were childhood friends. These two powerful women met as girls in their junior high gym class. They remained friends throughout high school, when both attended LaGuardia as drama majors, and have been friends ever since!

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What is Special About Wadleigh?

Ms. Desmangles describes the experience of being a part of the Wadleigh community — working with students who are dancers, singers, actors, and performers — as like being home with her second family. “At Wadleigh, we practice the pedagogy of love, so every day I get to go and be with kids who love what they do. Wadleigh is a really big beautiful family of people who care about the kids, who care about the community, who care about the parents, and who care about the educators."

She described the support of the community reaching beyond the classroom, supporting and providing for the whole child. Wadleigh has a pantry called the Wadleigh Market where kids can go food shopping. Every year the kids get a backpack filled with all of the supplies they need. Instead of traditional uniforms, the kids get Wadleigh gear that is provided by the school. “I love the fact that our community does that. We remove anything that might be a barrier for a family. If it is possible for us to do it, we will do it. For me, that is the whole pedagogy of love … we see our kids as awesome amazing people, and anything we can do to support them, we do that.”

As I was speaking with these women about Wadleigh and Pongo Power, a common theme kept coming up — both places are environments where people take the time to help you grow into the person you want to be. When describing what she felt was unique about Pongo Power as a personal training gym, Judy said, "Elizabeth, the owner, really took the time to train me up. The amount of investment that she has in her team seemed very unusual. It’s a great, supportive environment where she pushes you so you want to do well, you want to learn more, and you want to go further."

djhighschool

What Sparked the Idea for the Caring for Caregivers Fundraiser?

Elizabeth Pongo, the founder and President of Pongo Power, has a goal of hosting two fundraising events per year. Judy, Elizabeth, and I were chatting one day about pre/postnatal fitness and we had the idea to focus on moms and the pre/postnatal community. We began to brainstorm what we could do. Judy returned to us with the idea of working with Wadleigh.

“I was on the phone with Ms. D and we were talking about Wadleigh. She was telling me about the amazing pantry they have going where they were providing all kinds of toiletries, socks, food, and things that families would need, especially right now because of the pandemic. I thought it was amazing that they had been able to keep that going through this last year.”

So, the initial idea of doing an event for moms turned into doing an event for the caregivers of the students at Wadleigh. Ms. Norman, the Principal, had the idea of providing an emergency fund that could go to things that you need "right then and there."

When you were talking about how the owner of Pongo Power really supported you and molded you and really saw something in you and helped you get to where you are right now, it makes me think about what we do at Wadleigh."

- Ms. Desmangles

dulynedylinjudy

Moving Forward After Connecting Our Communities Through the "Caring for Caregivers" Fundraiser

Ms. Desmangles said “the dream is after March 31 our kids will have learned how to navigate or have some tools to manage some of the stresses that come with this new normal. My hope is that our kids will have a tool that they can pull from and say "you know what? There is something I can do about this. I can do a check-in, I can do a scan, and this is normal that I feel this way. That's a life skill … you need that when so much is coming at you.”

We are so excited about the Caring for Caregivers fundraiser and are already starting to think about how to continue to build the relationship between the Pongo Power and Wadleigh communities and continuing to share our expertise in the connection to movement and overall well-being.

Some ideas that have come up are doing a yoga class for the caregivers, students, and educators. Also, Pongo Power has been talking about building a career center to help people break into being a personal trainer. 

The Care for Caregivers Fundraiser will be on March 31, from 1-5 pm on Zoom. Please stay tuned for more details on programming and raffle prizes. If you would like to make a donation now, please click here. We are so looking forward to seeing you on March 31!

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