West Hempstead High School special education students have gotten a hands-on experience of entrepreneurship through a program making socks for Autism awareness. Students enrolled with the school’s special education prevocational program had the opportunity to design a sock now being produced by John’s Crazy Socks.
John Lee Cronin, a headstrong entrepreneur with Down syndrome, founded the sock business. With the help of his father Mark Cronin, John began the enterprise from his Huntington garage, eventually expanding to a dedicated warehouse space and now ironing out a potential partnership with Kohl’s. The business seemed a natural pairing for West Hempstead’s special education students.
The idea for the program first emerged near the start of the pandemic. Students were originally slated to visit John’s Crazy Socks in person, but after the onset of Covid hampered in-person gatherings, teacher Sheila Dempsey and Special Education staff had to find a more creative way for their students to explore the business.
Dempsey explained that the special education team took up this and other projects to introduce their students to the world of business. “We want our kids to have these opportunities, exploring different jobs, and to see all the jobs that are possible for folks with different disabilities,” Dempsey explained. “Projects like these are ultimately about career exploration and getting them to learn more about business.”
This partnership with John’s crazy socks is just one of a number of projects West Hempstead schools have undertaken to open up opportunities to its special education students. “Earlier we partnered with the Town of Hempstead Animal Shelter getting the students to make dog treats. In that event we were able to raise $800 dollars for the shelter.”
Andrew Wells, a junior at West Hempstead High School has been the architect behind another charity drive. A meticulous creative, Wells has been painting shells and various other crafts to sell and donate the proceeds to various charities. Wells, also autistic, helped in the sock drive, stated, “what I liked the most about the socks was the creative thinking and celebrating autism awareness.”
Fellow West Hempstead High School student Rena Pearlman similarly spoke highly of the creativity involved in the project. “My favorite thing about making the socks is that the whole class came up with a really cute design,” she said. “I like celebrating autism awareness because I have autism, and some others have autism, and we supported them.”
Proceeds from the sock sales will go to West Hempstead SEPTA, the Special education Parent Teacher Association, which advocates for the needs of special education students. Dempsey and the special education staff plan to continue projects like these, giving their students some practical experience and broadening their horizons while raising money for good causes. “Right now we have limited trips,” Dempsey explained. “But as restrictions continue to ease up, we hope we can bring the kids to John’s Crazy Socks in person, and get the ball rolling on other events too.”