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Denver nonprofit helps individuals with autism fight isolation and underemployment

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DENVER — Stephanie Engels has worked with individuals with autism and other developmental disabilities for nearly 15 years.

“Over time, I really just developed a passion for working with adults and teens with autism," she explains. "That’s how REVEL came to be.”

REVEL stands for "Real Experiences Vital for Enhancing Life.” Engels is the organization's executive director.

When students with disabilities leave the public school system, the services available to them become scarce.

“Once you turn 21, you're no longer enrolled in school, the services that you've been receiving throughout this entire time drop off and there's this real gap in what is offered,” Engels says.

That’s where REVEL comes in.

Colorado Voices

REVEL - Enhancing Life


Colorado nonprofit REVEL helps young adults with autism gain life skills.

“REVEL provides services for people who are 14 and older; we don't have an age gap and we really recognize the need for supporting people who have transitioned out of school and aren't sure what their path is,” Engels says.

Unfortunately, people with autism are also more vulnerable to additional mental health issues in adulthood.

“Adults with autism have a higher risk of social isolation and depression. Ninety percent are unemployed or underemployed and REVEL is creating this environment and this community for them to come to so that they feel welcome and have a place to be,” Engels explains.

REVEL helps people with autism learn life skills and gain more independence through REVEL’s daily activities.

“Our activities range from teaching daily living skills, health and wellness, and really finding their creative arts and passions,” said Engels.

Connor, a participant in the programalso known as a "Reveler"loves the cooking classes, especially making pizza.

“REVEL has helped me learn how to cook for myself,” Connor says. “Today we are cooking pizza.” When pressed on his favorite kind, he decides on pepperoni.

“The goal of the cooking classes are just for them to gain more independence and hopefully at some point try these recipes on their own when they're home,” says Dianna Rodriquez, a behavioral interventionist who works with REVEL.

REVEL activities also include games, outdoor activities and artwork.

Some of the artwork the Revelers create will serve a special purpose later in the year.

“We're having our first annual 'REVEL in Art' fundraising event this year,” says Engels. “It will be virtual, and we are really fortunate to be able to bring the community together to partner with various local artists who'll be showcasing their art.”

“They have an opportunity to bid on the artwork which will then in turn support REVEL," Engels continues. "That is on April 22.”

REVEL's work is not only important for its participants, but gratifying for Engels and her staff.

“I think that I go home every day knowing that I made at least a small difference in lots of people's lives here, in every single one of my clients,” says Rodriguez.

The difference is huge, and the experience for the Revelers is priceless.

“REVEL is a place where I can hang out with my friends,” Connor says.

You’ll find Connor and all his friends at REVEL, cooking, creating artwork and most importantly, learning the life skills that can enhance and bring greater independence to their lives.

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