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Fashion with a Purpose

Jemicy student fashion designers partner with Penn-Mar Human Services to create adaptive clothing for people with disabilities.  

A beloved tradition, The Tony Smith Evening of the Arts showcases the breadth and depth of our students’ extraordinary creativity. The artwork that fills the hallways evokes an array of emotions – wonder, pride, curiosity, and even awe. But this year, joy was undeniably front and center thanks to a one-of-a-kind fashion show.  
The fashion show portion of the evening began with our students modeling their own designs, from stunning evening gowns to avant-garde skirts and dresses. The audience was impressed, but what followed took the emotion to another level. When the first Penn-Mar model strutted onto the stage, twirling, posing, and absolutely beaming, we knew we were about to witness something special.

As with the inaugural event in 2023, which took place at Penn-Mar (a service provider for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities), this year’s designs by Jemicy students were tailored to the specific needs of the Penn-Mar clients, ensuring ease of wear and comfort, addressing each person’s sensory issues, and of course, incorporating their personal style. Eight AP Art students created 17 pieces designed to slip easily overhead, utilize stretchy materials with minimal seams, and include large zippers, magnets, or ties to secure.

Upper School Visual Arts Chair Pauline Savage shares, "Our gifted young creatives shine brightest when they engage in real-world design opportunities. As a school that celebrates inclusion and neurodiversity, we are delighted to work with Penn-Mar for a second year.” Pauline explains that our students “have the capacity to connect seemingly dissimilar ideas, which is an extraordinary asset in this context. They love to create fresh and unique designs, but partnering with Penn-Mar gives them a chance to do something that few manufacturers are doing: craft items that empower people with disabilities to feel confident and included.”  
Penn-Mar CEO Greg Miller says the original event was such a hit that they are especially thrilled the show returned this year. "The excitement we saw from the models last year and the relationships they created with the designers made it one of the most rewarding events we’ve done,” adds Miller. We agree. The beaming smiles, not only of the Penn-Mar models but on the faces of the designers as they accompanied them down the runway, confirmed that the months of hard work were worth it. Click here to view more photos and video.
And, there was more! A documentary titled “Fashion with a Purpose,” which had been created by Jemicy’s videography students, premiered at the event. Led by instructor Leslie Furlong, this multi-year project followed the creative process, final fittings, and last year’s event. The final product looked like it could have been done by professionals!

A special thank you to Tina Chan Sweenie, Penn-Mar’s associate director of development, and her daughter, Leila ’25, for championing this project. Tina expressed her gratitude for the partnership with Jemicy School, thanking them “for once again folding Penn-Mar into their world and curriculum. It was a remarkable evening that truly touched each person there, leaving them feeling deeply satisfied and beaming with genuine happiness.”
Also, a big shout out to the students who helped with hair and makeup and all the behind-the-scenes efforts that went into the show. This experience provided invaluable real-world experience for our students, fostered acceptance and understanding, and enriched the lives of the Penn-Mar community. Everyone in attendance left feeling inspired by the next generation of Jemicy students who will continue to change the lives of everyone they touch. 
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 and supports 400+ adults with disabilities daily through an array of customizable services. www.penn-mar.org.
An internationally recognized leader in educating talented and bright students with dyslexia or other related language-based learning differences.
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