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New experiences, opportunities for adults

What happens when passion and individuality come together? You may come across an organization such as the Service Center for Independent Life.

The Service Center for Independent Life (SCIL) is one of 28 nonprofit service centers in California.

“At SCIL, we work with persons with disabilities of all ages,” explained Chelsea DiGerolamo, program manager. “We also work with seniors. The goal of SCIL is simply to support our consumers to make good choices. We do this through providing information and resources to assist them in increasing their independence.”

The organization is best defined through its mission statement: “SCIL seeks to empower all persons with any disability, in their quest for greater personal independence, and to advocate for a barrier-free society.” Through assisting their “consumers,” the SCIL staff and board members are able to see a blossoming independence in each person.

“We provide many resources and classes for our consumers: self-advocacy training, assistive technology, housing information, independent living skills training, peer counseling, benefits planning and information & referral services,” Ms. DiGerolamo listed. “However, a SCIL favorite has to be the fitness class.”

The group’s biweekly fitness class allows participants to get their blood pumping and bodies moving, as well as adopt a fitness routine. Among the favorites, Ms. DiGerolamo said, is a taekwondo class offered Tuesday mornings.

“Taekwondo really gets them excited to work out, even in this heat,” said Delnata Booth, a volunteer of two years. The taekwondo classes are run by teachers Trevor Wright and Armand Bujanda.

Mr. Bujanda, a visually impaired SCIL staff member, taught the Tuesday class last week. Ms. DiGerolamo explained that “100 percent of the staff and 65 percent of SCIL’s board of directors are people with disabilities.

“This gives us [SCIL] a unique insight into what our consumers face each day permitting us to more effectively serve our consumers,” she said.

Mr. Bujanda was a long-time volunteer for SCIL, and was recently hired as an independent living skills trainee. He recently graduated from Cal Poly Pomona with a bachelor’s in nonprofit management and, after 15 years of training in taekwondo, achieved a black belt. He now gives back by teaching taekwondo with SCIL.

At last Tuesday’s class, Mr. Bujanda led the way with his white cane across the Metrolink train tracks up to Shelton Park, located at Bonita and Harvard avenues. Once at the park, Mr. Bujanda began with a quick warm-up, during which SCIL volunteer Delanta Booth smiled and cracked jokes with consumers through the many stretches and jumping jacks.

“My main reason for volunteering is this right here, the smiling faces and laughs. In fact, I call them my kids. They make my day, every single day,” Ms. Booth said.

The class continued with stances, kicks, blocks and hand attacks. But for the participants, like Jacqueline Porter, SCIL offers much more than just exercise and fun.

“Because of SCIL, for once in my life, I feel as though I belong somewhere,” she said.

SCIL is located at 107 S Spring St., in Claremont. To participate in activities, consumers do not need to be a part of the Regional Center. SCIL services the San Gabriel and Pomona valleys. The organization welcomes volunteers. Call (909) 621-6722 or visit the wesbite at scil-ilc.org for information.

—Chloe Selznick