Posted on May 12, 2023
May 11, 2023
Baltimore – Penn-Mar Human Services, the region’s leading provider of services for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD), will host its first-ever inclusive fashion show, featuring people that are supported by Penn-Mar, who will model original clothing designs created by 18 students from Jemicy School, a Maryland-based independent school that educates elementary, middle, and high school students with dyslexia or related language-based learning differences.
The show will take place on May 19, 2023 at 10:30 a.m. at Penn-Mar’s Day Learning Center at 310 Old Freeland Road in Freeland, Md. Though the event is closed to the general public, it will be livestreamed on Facebook and recorded for rebroadcast. Invited guests and members of the press are encouraged to attend.
The Jemicy students have created 20 original articles of clothing that are conducive with, and favorable to, the specific developmental and/or intellectual disabilities of people that Penn-Mar supports. Where appropriate, clothing will be designed to slip overhead easily, utilize stretchy materials with minimal seams, and rely on large zippers, magnets, or ties to secure. Then for the show, several people supported by Penn-Mar will “hit the catwalk” and model the Jemicy student’s unique designs, highlighting how fashion can, and should be, inclusive for everyone.
“Everything Penn-Mar does is centered around a commitment to inclusion and equity for the IDD community- so why should fashion be any different?” says Penn-Mar CEO Greg Miller. “This project gives the people we support a chance to embrace their disabilities with clothing that works with them and supports who they are as individuals, rather than having to conform and adapt to what’s being offered by the clothing industry.”
Miller adds that while there are no formal plans to make the show a recurring event, both teams have expressed interest in doing it again.
The first inkling for the event began in 2019 as a natural extension of Penn-Mar’s person-centered approach to support. Jennifer Hisey, Penn-Mar’s community supports day program manager, discussed having a fashion show with people who attend Penn-Mar’s day learning center. They loved the idea, but then the pandemic halted any plans.
Then, in April 2022, Tina Chan Sweenie, Penn-Mar’s associate director of development, attended a fashion show at Jemicy where her daughter, Leila, was a featured student designer. Realizing that there was already interest in holding a fashion show at Penn-Mar, Tina and Leila approached Jennifer about a collaborative effort between Jemicy and Penn-Mar. Jennifer loved the idea and soon after, the Penn-Mar team contacted Pauline Savage, Leila’s teacher and Jemicy’s US visual arts department chair and college counselor for the arts. Upon hearing the proposal, Pauline knew it was a terrific opportunity for her fashion students to fully express their talent and creativity.
“My students are brilliant visual spatial thinkers, ingenious when it comes to problem solving,” says Pauline. “They have a talent for making unusual connections that allow them to see opportunities that many people cannot, and they shine brightest when engaged in real-world design opportunities.”
She adds that the partnership with Jemicy is especially appropriate, given the school’s commitment to inclusion and finding ways to overcome learning obstacles for neurodivergent and dyslexic children for the past 50 years. Jemicy students have unique methods to learning, based on who they are as individuals, which is not dissimilar for someone with an IDD and how they approach and adapt to daily living. In fact, for 42 years, Penn-Mar has been helping people with an IDD achieve their own personal goals and find success in a world that is very often not inclusive of their needs.
In addition to the fashion show, eight Jemicy film students will be recording the entire show for a future documentary.
The press is encouraged to attend but must RSVP by contacting Roger Mecca: firstname.lastname@example.org. Photos and video of the event will also be made available.
About Penn-Mar Human Services
Penn-Mar Human Services is a nonprofit that supports people with intellectual and developmental disabilities to Live Courageously, whether that’s securing a job, being an active member of their community, building independence, or developing new relationships. Penn-Mar accomplishes this by supporting people on their own unique personal journeys. Founded in 1981, Penn-Mar operates 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, in northern Maryland and southern Pennsylvania. They support 500+ adults with disabilities daily through an array of customizable services.