STATEN ISLAND, NY — Four Staten Island professionals have teamed up to create one mega-recreation center where customers of all ages and backgrounds can get fit, immerse themselves in art, and learn new topics, all under one roof.
The entrepreneurs wanted to combine their talents and expertise to open The Fusion Programs, a 4,800 square foot center in Dongan Hills, in September.
Designed to foster unique talents and interests in children, teens and adults, the all-inclusive facility is the brainchild of board-certified educator Maria Casale and her husband, George Casale, a creative artist, who live in New Dorp. and owning LEAP Tutoring Academy. They worked with former Olympic athlete Frank Mensah and Diane Campione, an adaptive programmer, both Olympic Fitand a perfect “Fusion” took place.
“Where the partnership comes in is Frank and I deal with adults aged 21 plus post-special education, post-secondary education,” explains Campione. “so she” [The Casales] no adult part entered. And when we all worked together, it became a beautiful, creative collaboration.”
Fusion will offer classes in technology, coding, cosmetology, aesthetics, fitness, dance, culinary arts, gaming, theater arts, social media classes and DIY [do it yourself] art projects, as well as learning how to bring talent to the YouTube production arena, said Maria Casale.
“Each of us came up with a model to provide quality programming,” she said. “The educator, athlete, graphic artist and adaptive programmer turned out to be a great combination of talent, motivation and dedication. Fusion programs are a unique blend of innovation and recreation housed in a beautiful state-of-the-art facility.”
CATERING FOR ALL AGES
The center’s programming includes activities and classes for people from 2 years old.
“Our program will be available to children, teens and adults. The Fusion programs were founded out of a need to provide individuals with creative opportunities to express themselves,” said George Casale. “Whether you enjoy cooking, food, health, art, media production, photography, fitness, sensory-inspired play spaces, drama, programming, digital art and avatar making, gaming, science or technology, Fusion has something for you.”
Campione noted that the Fusion programs target neurotypical as well as children and adults with special needs.
“The Fusions programs are unique in that you usually see places that either do all the special needs in one place, or you see places that do all neurotypical individuals,” Campione said. “Very rarely do you see a mix.”
“For example, when our children, teens and young adults arrive, they are given choices to adjust their schedule for the day. They are welcome to grab a bite to eat at the mini-cafe, park their stuff in a creative space, and spend literally hours enjoying the shows they love,” she added.
Mensah had been running a successful personal training business for over 20 years when he decided to partner with Maria and George Casale.
Mensah opened an all-inclusive model for his company with help from Campione — a special needs mom and former adaptive programming specialist for the New York Public Library (NYPL). In 2017 Mensah developed the Triumph Programand when Campione decided to retire from NYPL in 2021 after 34 years of service, Mensah seized the opportunity and offered her a spot as director of programming at his company. Olympic Fit.
“Mensah has carefully and confidently orchestrated a way to include people with special needs in his daily roster of community classes. He takes his new clients to community centers and private gyms alongside typical individuals to do strength training,” said Campione.
As owners of Leap Tutoring Academy — who have worked with children, teens, and young adults for many years using multi-sensory teaching approaches, such as Orton Gillingham and Touch Math — The Casales have an extensive background in education.
During the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, Casales came up with the idea for The Fusion Programs and broke ground at the facility on Cromwell Avenue in Dongan Hills, directly across from Leap Tutoring Academy.
“COVID has really opened our eyes to how small the world really is. Why should young children, teens and young adults have to travel to many different facilities both on Staten Island and out of town to enjoy a cooking class, health and fitness class, art class, or even a gaming experience?” said Maria Casale.
“It was with that mindset that we decided to build a state-of-the-art facility not only to spark the interests of our students, but also to inspire and cultivate hidden talents in those who are developing normally, as well as those who have special needs. [We realize] both sectors need to socialize, be creative and find meaningful outlets as a real alternative to using their phones and playing on their iPads,” she added.
THE FUSION PROGRAMS AT A GLANCE
Address: 300 Cromwell Avenue.
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