Autism Speaks U at Seton Hall University
This guest post is by Autism Speaks staffer Kerry Magro. Kerry, an adult who has autism, is a rising senior at Seton Hall University, majoring in Sports Management. He started an Autism Speaks U Chapter: Student Disability Awareness on campus to help spread awareness and raise funds for those affected by autism. Autism Speaks U is a program designed for college students who host awareness, advocacy and fundraising events, while supporting their local autism communities.
In 2008, Autism Speaks U was founded. The same year, I founded an undergraduate, student-run organization at Seton Hall University called, Student Disability Awareness (SDA). It is an organization focused on spreading disability awareness for both temporary and permanent disabilities. This fall, my organization is collaborating with Autism Speaks U to become an official Autism Speaks U Seton Hall Chapter. During the next few months, our mission is to promote and spread awareness for Autism Speaks U, while hoping to become another student certified organization at Seton Hall during spring of 2011.
At Seton Hall, disability awareness is something that is rarely promoted or discussed. 350 students are registered with a disability on our campus, along with another 650+ others who are not. We are one of the largest minorities at Seton Hall (this should not be a surprise considering people with disabilities in general are the largest minority in the world). SDA was the first disability awareness organization ever created at Seton Hall and with Autism Speaks U, we will have a second. With this organization, we move a step closer to giving disability awareness a voice, not just through Seton Hall, but all of New Jersey with our community run events throughout the state. Through SDA, we have several events set up for Autism Speaks U. The main one is a Seton Hall organized, Walk Now for Autism Speaks team called “SHU Make a Difference.” They will participate in The Northern New Jersey Walk in Cranford on October 17th. We are currently the 5th highest fundraising team for the walk and are still looking for donations (if interested in donating, please check out my fundraising page or our team page).
Along with the walk, we are already planning informational seminars about autism, along with monthly roundtable discussions on the subject. There is also an event called “Coming Out: Autism in College,” where we encourage both disabled and non disabled students alike to come out and spread the message that it’s okay to be just the way they are. I will be reading an excerpt from my manuscript, “Autism: The College Spectrum,” from one of my earlier blog posts. I will also be speaking about my progression as someone on the autism spectrum. Nothing about us, without us is our message throughout this event. We will be promoting Autism Speaks U to encourage student involvement and have flyers, brochures, and an information table set up for this week. We also have a faculty of supporters spreading our organization through the class rooms.
As a college senior, I know this is the last hoorah. It’s going to be a great deal of work for the SDA members and me. My mission however has made me hungry, which is to make sure I push what needs to be done to make sure that these two organizations can stand on their own once I graduate. The struggles that I’ve endured through college have made me a stronger person. Ideally, I want to make sure the future of students, disabled or not, can have someplace to feel safe, and to understand that it’s ok, once again, to be just who you are.
Let’s get to work….
If you are involved with Autism Speaks U on your campus and would like your story to be featured on the Autism Speaks blog, please send it to AutismSpeaksU@autismspeaks.org. Autism Speaks reserves the right to edit contributions for space, style and content. Because of the volume of submissions, not all can be published on the site.