Once a month, students in the Sisters Transition Program gather for a fun-filled evening of video games, food, and socializing. The event is coordinated by Craig Wessel, 21, who is wrapping up his final year in the Sisters Transition Program. Wessel decided to take on this leadership role to bring students, families, and teachers closer together. He has put on a handful of successful game nights so far, and he anticipates that the turn out will grow even bigger in the following months.

Craig Wessel, 21 organizer of Game Night at the Transition Program building in Sisters.

“I write emails to families to let them know about Game Night. It is fun to bring everyone together outside of work and school, because it gives us a chance to get to know each other better,” said Wessel.

Wessel attended Central Oregon Community College for a year and then got hired at Five Pines Lodge as well as the Sisters Athletic Club. He strives to one day work in metabolic maintenance or for the U.S. Postal Service.

“In my work, I often hear the need for social opportunities outside of the school day that are appropriate and interesting for my students,” said teacher Suzy Hayes. “Video games are almost always the common interest, but I don’t know anything about them! Craig quickly made up for my lack of knowledge and organized the event. He has been a natural leader in this process and wants everyone to just show up and have a good time.”

Organizing Game Night is just one of Wessel’s leadership roles, as he is also a member of the board for affordable housing. This is a group of educators, students, parents, and community leaders exploring the possibility of creating an affordable housing project in Sisters.

“It is important that we are engaging with the community to establish sustainable, affordable living for people with disabilities,” said Wessel. “Game Night is a good way to make connections with people and get everyone on board.”

Game Night is held in Sisters’ new Transition Program  building, across the street from the high school. The Transition Program used to meet at the Belfrey downtown, but having this new space has allowed for new activities and opportunities such as Game Night. Anyone is welcome to join in on the fun, and all are encouraged to bring games or food to share potluck style. During Game Night in February, there were about 25 people enjoying pizza, cookies, chips, and a variety of games.

“I made the cookies and I also brought some consoles from home,” said Max Huni, 19. Huni generously provided a Playstation 4, Virtual Reality Headset, Xbox 1x, and a Nintendo Switch.

“I think Game Night is enjoyable and entertaining. I like all of the different games,” said Jesse Isbell, 21.

“Game night is wonderful,” said Dena Isbell, Jesse’s mother, whose family recently moved to Central Oregon from Sandy. “To be able to come here and be included—having the chance to interact with peers—it has just been a blessing.”