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Autism Speaks U Spotlight: Virginia Tech Chapter President

October 24, 2011 2 comments

This guest post is by Kaitlyn Whiton, a senior at Virginia Tech. She is the president of her school’s Autism Speaks U chapter and is working to create a long lasting legacy on campus! Autism Speaks U is a program designed for college students who host awareness, advocacy and fundraising events, while supporting their local autism communities.

Autism was a word that most people had never heard of 20 years ago, when my younger brother, Freddy, was diagnosed. I cannot count how many times my friends would ask me why Freddy would hit himself, not talk to anyone, or only repeat the same lines from the same movies. By the age of 10, autism had already had a huge impact on my life and I knew I wanted to continue to help others, like my brother, grow to their fullest potential. Starting a chapter of Autism Speaks U at Virginia Tech was a perfect opportunity to not only give back, but also inspire others to be involved with a wonderful organization.

Kaitlyn (far right) with her brother Freddy (left) and her father Fred (center).

Even though this is only Autism Speaks U Virginia Tech’s second semester on Hokie stomping ground, we have already made an impact in our community. Last semester we raffled off a football signed by coach, Frank Beamer and a  basketball signed by coach, Seth Greenberg. This semester, our big fundraising event is going to be an awareness night at Hokie House, a local restaurant and bar, on Friday, November 4. During the event we are going to be raffling off themed baskets as an extra way to raise money.

Autism Speaks U Virginia Tech, unfortunately has a number of seniors who will be graduating in the spring. Luckily, we have found motivating and inspiring individuals who will continue the mission of Autism Speaks U in the Virginia Tech community. Our old executive board will help train the new executive board throughout the rest of the current semester and will be here to advise the new officers during the spring semester.

My dream would be to come back to Virginia Tech and attend a fundraiser executed by our predecessors. My goal this year is to inspire, motivate and educate the newest members of the executive board so that our organization continues for many years to come.

Members of Autism Speaks U Virginia Tech at their 2011 club fair.

For more information about Autism Speaks U at Virginia Tech, contact the chapter president, Kaitlyn Whiton, at kait6573@vt.edu.

Autism Speaks U Spotlight: UC Berkeley Chapter President

September 26, 2011 2 comments

This guest post is by Caroline McCloskey, a sophomore at UC Berkeley. She is the president and founder of her school’s Autism Speaks U chapter and is a true ambassador for our cause! Autism Speaks U is a program designed for college students who host awareness, advocacy and fundraising events, while supporting their local autism communities.

Helping those with autism has always held a place in my heart. My older brother Joey was diagnosed with autism at a very young age, and has always been my big “little brother.” Joey has a considerably severe case of autism and is often misunderstood because he has difficulty communicating with others. He lives in the world of a six-year old and still watches Disney movies (his favorite being Peter Pan), Sesame Street and Winnie the Pooh.  One of the truly amazing things about my brother is his ability to complete a 500-piece puzzle in twenty minutes – something I would never be able to do. He will never fail to impress me with his unique gift and now that I’ve gone to college and live 6000 miles away from home, I miss him dearly.

Caroline hikes to the big Campanile to raise autism awareness.

Coming to the University of California, Berkeley was by far the best decision I have ever made. As soon as I got here I knew that I wanted to get involved on campus, so I looked into various student organizations and tried to find one that promoted autism awareness or raised money for scientific research. No such club or organization existed. I thought to myself: of all the hundreds of student organizations that Berkeley has to offer, how is it that not a single one addresses the problem of autism, something that affects 1 in 110 people?

Consequently, some friends and I took the initiative and our chapter of Autism Speaks U at Berkeley was officially founded on March 9th2011. Now we have over 30 active members and have begun to establish a firm presence on campus as of this academic year. The UC Berkeley community has been very supportive of our efforts and during Autism Awareness Month this year we held an awareness campaign and small-scale fundraiser in the Unit 2 Residence Halls. Our biggest achievement so far has been lighting up the Campanile blue on Autism Awareness Day, which we hope to do again in April 2012.

Campanile Lit Up Blue.

Right now we are in the process of planning a benefit concert to be held on November 19, of this year. We are also trying to establish a mentoring program with the Berkeley Unified School District, where members of our chapter would volunteer with children and young adults on the spectrum. Furthermore, we are in the early phases of planning a large-scale walk event on UC Berkeley’s campus, which will be held on April 72012, during Autism Awareness Month.

This year we have a very strong team of officers who are all contributing incredible amounts of time and effort to our cause. It means so much to me that my friends have been so supportive of what I am so passionate about, and I honestly appreciate their help and support more than they will ever know. I know that this year we’re going to go far and it’s all because of them: thank you, guys.

To get involved with Autism Speaks U and/or the UC Berkeley collegiate chapter, contact autismspeaksu@autismspeaks.org.  

Autism Speaks U “Back to School” LIVE Q&A Transcript

September 22, 2011 Leave a comment
On Wednesday, September 21, our Autism Speaks U team hosted a LIVE Facebook Q&A for college students across the country. We discussed topics like how/why to start a collegiate chapter, what events to host,  recruiting strategies, and how to secure event funding. If you were unable to join us last night,  please read below for the full Q&A transcript. You can also visit www.AutismSpeaks.org/U for more information.
7:56
Hello everyone, thanks for joining our LIVE Q&A tonight. We’ll be starting at 8pm EST/5pm PST.
8:01
This Q&A is intended for college students, faculty and staff. The chat is text only – you’ll interact with us via the live chat client that you are logged into right now.
8:01
Moderating this Q&A will be Sarah Caminker and Jaclyn Renner from Autism Speaks U.
8:02
Let’s do a quick roll call, so we know which schools are being represented. Enter the name of the school you attend.
8:02
Comment From Caroline (UC Berkeley)

UC Berkeley

8:02
Comment From Margo Rizzi

Boston College

8:02
Comment From Amanda

Eastern Michigan University

8:02
Comment From Kara

Ohio State University

8:02
Comment From Patty

mansfield university

8:02
Comment From James McDonald

Cisco College

8:02
Comment From Jackie Moreno

University of Southern California

8:02
Comment From Devin Fenyo

SUNY Albany

8:02
Comment From Guest

Community College Of Baltimore County Single Step Program

8:03
Comment From Hailey

Eastern Michigan University

8:03
Comment From Grace

USC

8:04
Looks like we have a great group of schools here tonight! If there are any new comers, please type in your school name.
8:04
Comment From Caroline Williams

Wright State University

8:04
What is your involvement with Autism Speaks U?
I am part of an Autism Speaks U chapter.

 ( 38% )

I have hosted an awareness and/or fundraising event for Autism Speaks U.

 ( 6% )

I have just registered on the Autism Speaks U website.

 ( 6% )

I have just attended a Walk Now for Autism Speaks.

 ( 0% )

I have not done anything yet, but would like to!

 ( 50% )
8:05
Comment From Guest

Allison Love Community College Of Baltimore County Single Step Program.

8:05
During the first part of this chat we’ll focus on 3 topics and then open it up to Q&A.
8:06
The 3 topics will be fall event ideas, event recruitment, and getting funding for events.
8:06
Before we dive into our first topic, we’d like to ask a quick question.
8:06
What is your connection to autism?
My family member has autism.

 ( 35% )

I work with or educate those with autism.

 ( 31% )

My friend’s family is touched by autism.

 ( 8% )

My child has autism.

 ( 27% )

I do not personally know anyone touched by autism.

 ( 0% )
8:07
Now on to fall event ideas!
8:08
If you’re looking to host an event this semester, we’re here to help. We encourage you to be creative, and to get started here are a 4 event ideas.
8:08
1. Dance Marathon: This is the perfect event to dance the night away and raise funds and awareness for autism. Ask your school to donate a venue and have student musicians and DJs donate their time and talent. You can sell tickets, blue glow sticks and deck the event out in blue!
8:08
2. Karaoke Night: Ask a local bar or restaurant to donate their venue. Get prizes donated from local businesses to give to those who come in 1st, 2nd and 3rd place.
8:08
Download the karaoke competition event guide at:http://bit.ly/karaokenight
8:09
3. Obstacle Course Challenge: If your school has an ROTC obstacle course, see if they’ll let you use it for the day. You can set this up the same way as a walk/run, with teams, vendors and prizes!
8:09
Access our walk/run event guide at http://bit.ly/5kwalk3krun and add to it!
8:09
4. Autism Awareness Sports Game: Ask a popular sports team on campus to donate a game to Autism Speaks U. Players can wear puzzle pieces, blue uniforms, use blue sports equipment, etc. If a night game, sell blue glow sticks and noisemakers as a fun way to get donations.
8:10
See how Colgate University’s women’s hockey team donated a game to Autism Speaks U!
8:10

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Players sported puzzle piece jerseys and lit up their rink blue!
8:10
What are events you are planning, or would like to host this Fall?
8:11
Comment From Caroline (UC Berkeley)

Benefit concert

8:11
Comment From James McDonald

Planning multiple Pizza Partys and Lock In’s

8:12
Comment From Kara

We’re trying to host a laser tag night as a fundraiser

8:12
Comment From Emily

Battle of the Bands event

8:12
Comment From Devin

Mechanical bull riding competition and on a smaller scale recycling drives and dine-in nights at local restaurants

8:12
Comment From Kara

Once it gets cold outside we’re going to sell hot chocolate outside our student union

8:12
Comment From Allison Love

My program might be hosting a mixer which is a dance for our program to raise awareness for Autism and all other disabilities. They told us at the end of last semester.

8:13
Comment From Caroline (UC Berkeley)

We’re also having a bake sale next week.

8:13
Comment From Michelle

A giant scavenger hunt across campus. We’re competing with another club to see who finishes the fastest.

8:13
Comment From Devin

we did a bake sale too and it was successful

8:13
Comment From James McDonald

We are also trying to have a “Auction” where we will be auctioning off faculty members to the students for 1 day. Still in beginning stages but hoping to make them wrap gifts and stuff for x-mas :)

8:14
Comment From Grace Kim

we are not sure yet but diddy riese is an option

8:14
Comment From Caroline (UC Berkeley)

I like the scavenger hunt idea

8:15
Comment From Michelle

We’re going to have Greek life and sports teams compete against each other for the scavenger hunt and finish with a relay race

8:15
Comment From Guest

St. John’s University- Staten Island Campus – Welcome!

8:15
Our next topic is on recruiting students to attend your events.
8:16
If you are part of an Autism Speaks U chapter, have or will you participate in your schools fall activities fair?
Yes

 ( 86% )

No

 ( 14% )
8:16
Activities fairs are a great way to get your name out on campus. If you were unable to attend your activities fair, then tabeling on campus to pass out flyers promoting your meetings and events is a great way to drum up membership.
8:17
Other ways to recruit students includes “dorm storming” the freshman dorms to distribute flyers advertising your event, chalking up the sidewalks and texting 10 people about your event and asking those 10 to forward the text to 10 of their friends.
8:17
You can also contact various academic departments (Psychology, Special Education, Speech & Hearing, Communication, etc.), and ask the department head to send an email out on your behalf to their listserv….this reaches so many students that might not know about your event.
8:17
Reaching out to a few professors, to if ask if you can make an announcement before class is helpful too!
8:18
Remember to create a Facebook event and invite everyone you know to attend! Have your event planning committee invite their friends to attend the event as well.
8:18
Here are a few photos of students promoting their efforts on campus.
8:18

Expand
8:18
That’s of the Autism Speaks U chapter at Ohio State University. They made Autism Speaks ping pong balls to give away at their fall activities fair!
8:19

Expand
Autism Speaks U chapter at UNC at Chapel Hill tabels on campus to raise awareness!
8:19
If you need an Autism Speaks U banner and materials to pass out (posters, handouts, quarter cards, etc.), emailautismspeaksu@autismspeaks.org.
8:19

Expand
Various Autism Speaks U materials
8:19
What are ways you recruit students to attend your meetings or events
8:20
Comment From Michelle

We flier everywhere and get the on campus television to run free ads for us!

8:20
Comment From Devin (SUNY Albany)

Tabling is a big one for us. Also, we sold those rubber bracelets on campus and they were a huge hit and got us a lot of attention. Facebook has been hugely helpful as well.

8:20
Comment From James McDonald

We just recieved aproval this morning to send a mass email to all students using our “Blackboard” system as well as posting it directly on the schools website. We will also be placing fliers in every classroom on campus

8:21
Comment From Thomas

We can set up posters around campus, right?

8:21
James, of course you can! We have posters that we can send you as well. Include tear offs on the bottom of all posters with your contact information, so students can call/email you directly.
8:22
To get Autism Speaks U posters, emailautismspeaksu@autismspeaks.org with your mailing address.
8:22
Comment From Kara

We bought ping pong balls in bulk and some blue sharpies, and drew puzzle pieces or wrote “Autism Speaks U” or “1 in 110″ on them to spread the word. We also use Facebook and flyers a lot.

8:22
Comment From Grace Kim

we are planning on having the director of campus affairs email the whole school about autism speaks u

8:22
Comment From Caroline (UC Berkeley)

Depends on your campus rules (in regards to posting fliers)

8:22
Comment From Emily

We wear our Autism Speaks U t-shirts to campus the day of our meetings and make announcements at the beginning of class.

8:23
Comment From Chris

Where can materials for tables form Autism Speaks U be requested at?

8:23
Chris, email autismspeaksu@autismspeaks.org – Include your mailing address, school and how you’d like to get involved!
8:24
Now for our last topic…. getting funding for events. And then we’ll open it up to Q&A.
8:24
Comment From Sindia

I like the ping pong ball idea!

8:24
Sindia, we do too!
8:24
Comment From Thomas Lloyd

I support Sindia’s idea.

8:24
If your school offers funding for on-campus clubs or events, contact your Student Government Association to see what paperwork needs to be filled out. Note that they generally have deadlines on when you can apply so check into this well in advance.
8:24
If your school does not offer club funding, here’s a few other options.
8:25
Contact your alumni association and send an email out to all members requesting they support your event’s efforts. Alumni love to see students from their alma mater give back!
8:25
Do you know how to contact members of your alumni association?
Yes

 ( 33% )

No

 ( 67% )
8:26
For those that answered no, visit your school’s Student Activities Office and they’ll direct you to the right person.
8:26
You can also ask local and corporate businesses to sponsor your event.
8:26
Download our event sponsorship guide athttp://bit.ly/sponsorguide. it offers a ton of tips and resources that you can send out to local businesses.
8:27
Remember to be creative with how people and businesses can partner with your events (whether the donation goes to event expenses or back to Autism Speaks).
8:27
For example, last April, a group of students received a challenge match from an alumna. He offered to donate $1,000 to Autism Speaks, if they could get 100 people to attend their event.
8:27
Other alumna offer to match donations that the event raises (i.e. event raises $2,000 and the alumna matches it with another $2,000).
8:27
Comment From Devin (SUNY Albany)

A lot of businesses are usually willing to help out with any events you may be planning. Even if they just donate gift cards or something small you can use them for raffles prizes, etc

8:28
How have you secured sponsors for your events? Or how are you planning to contact potential sponsors?
8:29
Comment From Devin (SUNY Albany)

Sponsorship packet

8:30
Comment From Thomas Lloyd

Posterboard in student lobby

8:30
Comment From Emily

We contacted a local restaurant and they offered to pay for our event t-shirts as long as we put their logo on the back of the shirt.

8:30
Comment From James McDonald

We have contacted several local businesses who have agreed to help with drinks, food for our events as well as donating raffle items. As a business owner myself it was easier to contact other business owners in my area.

8:30
Comment From Sindia

I am area that major restaurant chains are willing to do nights where they will give a certain percentage of a persons bill back to an organization or charity.

8:31
Yes, places like Pinkberry, Applebees, Qdoba, Fridays, 99 Restaurant, Chick-fil-A, Chilis are examples pf places that students have done dine-in nights in the past
8:32
A student recently did one at Starbucks too! Since Monday nights are slower, anything they raised more than average, they gave 50% back to the Autism Speaks U chapter.
8:32
Comment From Emily

Cheesecake Factory, PF Changs and Dunkin Donuts have always donated to our events also.

8:33
Comment From Hailey

I used to work in non-profit management, and we had a fundraising breakfast using the Benevon model, and we had a bunch of our members invite 10 guests to have breakfast, then there’s a speaker who talks about the cause, and then there’s an “ask” at the end. The ballroom we hosted it in donated space, and the food was extremely discounted for the cause. Do you think that’d work for a student organization as well?

8:34
Sure! Especially if you can get a speaker that students want to come out and hear. Even making it an all-you-can eat pancake breakfast or burger/fries helps appeal to college students on a budget.
8:35
Comment From Thomas Lloyd

Will any restaurant chains in Round Rock support Autism Speaks U as well?

8:36
I’m sure! Start by contacting chains and restaurants on campus or nearby and see if they’ll give a percentage back to Autism Speaks, or offer a special of the day.
8:36
Businesses want to get college students in the door, so leverage that!
8:36
Comment From James McDonald

Johny Carino’s is a statewide sponsor here in Texas for Autism Speaks. We are in the process of talking to them about Autism Speaks U as well

8:37
Comment From James McDonald

I have worked with them when we do our Walk Now for Autism Speaks in April. They are always willing to lend a helping hand when it comes to charity

8:37
In regards to funding for events, student can also participate in our “GO BLUE for Autism Speaks U” Facebook photo contest. Deck out in blue, submit a photo, and get friends and family to like the photo. Top 3 photos win marketing grants for their next Autism Speaks U event.
8:37
Get contest details at http://bit.ly/gobluedetails
8:38
See how Autism Speaks U at UC Berkeley went blue! Get creative and send us your photo!
8:38

Expand
Autism Speaks U chapter at UC Berkeley gather together to GO BLUE!
8:38
Comment From Caroline (UC Berkeley)

When you say marketing grants, what exactly do you mean? Would we have to use the money specifically for marketing?

8:38
The grants go toward event expenses for your next Autism Speaks U event.
8:39
Expenses can include marketing, logistics, supplies, etc.
8:39
Comment From Caroline (UC Berkeley)

Okay!

8:39
Will you submit a photo for our “GO BLUE” Facebook photo contest?
Yes

 ( 71% )

No

 ( 14% )

I already have

 ( 14% )
8:40
Deadline to submit photos is Friday, October 14. We encourage you to send them in as early as possible, so you can have friends and family “like” and comment on the picture(s).
8:41
Contest details at http://bit.ly/gobluedetails
8:41
Now on to Q&A… Feel free to ask questions about what we discussed or about the Autism Speaks U program in general.
8:41
Students are encouraged to answer each others questions as well!
8:41
Comment From Guest

The business I worked at last year let me do the puzzle peices for 1.00 I no longer work there. any suggestions on how to raise money for the walk in may 2012

8:43
You can still sell the puzzle pieces on campus to students and to local businesses. Other fundraising ideas include bake sales, dine-in nights, loose change campaigns.
8:43
And even asking students to contact their families and networks to donate online!
8:43
Comment From Hailey

Amanda (also in this chat) and I are thinking about starting a chapter at Eastern Michigan University. Besides filing the appropriate paperwork, what else is involved in starting a chapter?

8:44
Please review the 8 steps to creating a chapter document athttp://bit.ly/nj2yhw. This explains everything that needs to be completed on our end.
8:45
Your school might have other requirements, so contact the Student Activities Office.
8:46
Comment From James McDonald

starting a chapter is easier then renewing your drivers license!

8:46
Comment From Sindia

In response to Hailey’s question: I just started a new chapter on the staten island campus of St john’s University. Aside from the paper work needed from Autism Speaks U, you will need to get approval from your campus’ student organization

8:46
Comment From Hailey

Thank you!

8:46
Comment From Sindia

The process can take quite some time on the schools behalf.

8:46
Comment From Thomas Lloyd

Is Student Activities another name for Student Life? Because at ACC, we call it student life.

8:47
Yes at some schools!
8:47
Comment From Hailey

What is the benefit to the university to have a chapter on campus? We will be asking one of our faculty members to advise our chapter and would like to know what the university might gain from having a chapter with Autism Speaks, versus another autism organization?

8:47
Download our chapter guidebook at http://bit.ly/chapterguidebookand refer to page 6.
8:48
If you have more specific questions, send us an email atautismspeaksu@autismspeaks.org and we’ll brainstorm some ideas with you!
8:48
Comment From Amanda

How do you go about funding? Would you need a separate bank account?

8:49
Sometimes the school will ask you to create a bank account for your organization, but again, that depends on the school. There also might be a minimum amount you need to put into the account to start one (i.e. $50, $75, etc.)
8:49
Comment From Thomas Lloyd

Mr. McDonald. I am 19 years old and I have Aspergers. I’m trying to start a chapter at ACC in round rock. Can I contact you for questions. If so, how?

8:49
Comment From James McDonald

alot of schools will setup an account for your chapter with the business office. All you have to do is ask

8:50
Comment From Sindia

But once you get approval and get the ball rolling its all up to you!

8:51
Thomas, send us an email at autismspeaksu@autismspeaks.organd we’ll connect you with James at Cisco College!
8:51
Comment From Michelle

Where can we order Autism Speaks U shirts?

8:52
Students can order Autism Speaks U shirts athttp://bit.ly/asugetgear. You can also customize the front and back of them. They are really affordable ranging from $4-$10.
8:53
Comment From Michelle

To students who have started a chapter, I’m new at this, what has been your biggest challenge so far?

8:54
Comment From Devin (SUNY Albany)

for our chapter, it was just getting it off the ground in the 1st place. Our school has a lot of red tape when it comes to new clubs and promoting. We found it was best to be persistent

8:55
Comment From James McDonald

I think the biggest challenge so far for me has been “ok, What next”… Everything is a challenge for me as we are a small community college with locations 75 miles away from each other. Finding recruits, fundraising is the easy part. Getting everything organized for the first yr has been my toughest challenge because we are technically “the new group” on campus

8:55
Comment From Kara

I think our biggest challenge has been getting the word out since our chapter is fairly new too. But we’ve been attending our involvement fairs and making sure to pass out flyers and make announcements before classes

8:56
Comment From Emily

We have so many great ideas but executing them can be difficult. Which is why having a strong executive board is important, so that we can delegate responsibilities.

8:56
Comment From Patty

I want to try to start a chapter at my school. Is it hard to get people involved and join the club? I’d assume it takes a few people just to get it started..

8:58
All it takes is a few students, have them reach out to their friends and you’re off! Also, in our chapter guidebook on pages 7-8 we offer recruitment ideas. Download it athttp://bit.ly/chapterguidebook
8:58
Comment From James McDonald

Thankfully serving on the committee for West Texas Autism Speaks has helped me in tremendous ways because i am use to the funraising and sponsorship atmosphere. I’m sure it can be a little overwhelming at first but having a positive attitude and selecting a great e-board has helped so much

8:58
Comment From Molly

Patty- we are a brand new chapter, just got approval a few weeks ago. It’ll take a little work, but you’ll be surprised how many people will be interested once you get your name out there!

8:58
Comment From Devin (SUNY Albany)

It only took us a small number of people to start but once we started tabling and getting the word out a lot of students approached us.

8:58
Comment From Patty

thanks!

8:59
We would like to thank all of you for participating in our Autism Speaks U Q&A! It’s fantastic to see college students so involved in raising awareness and advocating for the autism community.
8:59
If we didn’t get to your question or you have a few more, email us at autismspeaksu@autismspeaks.org.
8:59
Please be sure to check out www.AutismSpeaks.org/U for more information!
8:59
Have a great rest of the night!
9:00
Comment From Devin (SUNY Albany)

Thanks! You too!

9:00
Comment From Kara

Thanks!

9:01
Comment From Emily

You guys are awesome! Thanks!

9:02
Comment From Patty

you too! thanks :)


Be Who You Are

September 12, 2011 4 comments

This guest post is by Autism Speaks staffer Kerry Magro. Kerry, an adult who has autism, is a graduate student at Seton Hall University. He started the club 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.

Have you ever had that day when someone calls you or one of your loved ones awkward, odd, or weird? I think I’ve been called all of those words every year since I was nine. What do these words even mean now anyways? I think the easiest way of thinking of this in today’s society is someone who is away from the “norm.” That one person who does something that doesn’t seem “right.” Society has set us up with a standard that is set for us to judge without reason.

This standard has hurt people with autism for decades. When I was diagnosed with autism at age 4, I would soon have some tendencies that would be far different than the established norm. I was going to have a hard time with eye contact, some difficulty with my motor skills and also would have a hard time speaking in front of crowds. None of this makes me any less of a person as the next. I don’t want the pity that some grant for having a disorder either. I just want to know that at the end of the day I’ll be allowed to be me with no judgment, no questions asked.

That’s why when I write this blog I encourage everyone reading, to lead by example by taking action. If we let ourselves and our loved ones be who they are proudly, we defy and ignore the criticisms of others and hopefully lead to a better, more aware world; autism and all. As a college graduate with autism, does this mean I may have some difficult times from others ahead? You bet. It sure beats the alternative though of not being who I want and was meant to be, and that someone is me.

*What things have people said about who you are you that make you different from the norm? Feel free to comment below!*

This is one of my Autism Speaks U related blog posts. If you would like to contact me directly about questions/comments related to this post I can be reached at kerry.magro@autismspeaks.org or through my Facebook Page here.

College Fashionistas Support Autism Speaks U

September 1, 2011 Leave a comment

The Autism Speaks U Chapter at the University of Michigan’s co-founders (Maressa Criscito & Alex Lewisohn) interviewed collegiate entrepreneurs and twins, Samantha and Morgan Elias. These 21 year old sisters are the brains behind The Vintage Twin. Samantha, a member of Autism Speaks U at the University of Michigan, and Morgan, who attends New York University, recently hosted a trunk show on August 1 in New York City, donating over $550 to Autism Speaks.

Owners of The Vintage Twin with Autism Speaks U Co-Founders at Trunk Show Benefiting Autism Speaks U

The Vintage Twin, which was founded and self-financed in August 2009 with a trunk show in the their mother’s basement, is now a burgeoning brand; the first to use only recycled materials in creating one-of-a-kind original designs. Recreating vintage clothing, home goods, and accessories, TVT is a retail revolution offering people a style that is all their own.

1. Do you have a personal connection to autism? If so, please explain.

Our eldest sister is a speech pathologist and we have each shadowed her in working with children with autism. More close to home, our first cousin has asperger syndrome and we have watched him grow and overcome the hardships of staying in a specialized mainstream school.

 2. Why do you feel it is important to host events for Autism Speaks?

Autism affect MILLIONS of people on varying degrees and the numbers only seem to be growing.   Awareness must be raised, but more importantly, funds must be raised to better the quality of life for those who live a lifetime with it, rather than many medicinal fundraisers that are focused on fatal diseases.

3. How did you become involved with the Autism Speaks U program?

My best friends (Maressa & Alex) started it at The University of Michigan!

 4. What other events have you hosted for Autism Speaks or other charities in the past?

We have previously donated to Project Kids Worldwide.

 5. Why is it important for college students to be educated about autism?

Autism is EVERYWHERE and not going anywhere fast. We need to be aware, able to coexist and assist people in assimilating despite their social challenges. 

6. What kind of impact can the fashion world have on spreading autism awareness?

As the brand grows and we continue to have events benefiting Autism Speaks U, our fan bases can combine to not only raise money for the cause, but also to spread awareness within the vast world of fashionistas and fundraisers.

7. What advice do you have for other students who are also interested in becoming entrepreneurs?

START. Whether it’s selling out of your closet or opening a store, start now!

8. What are your future plans for your business?  Any specific designers/trends or events your fans should keep an eye out for?

Our website is going to be an awesome destination for affordable unique wears for ALL.

 9.  What was the biggest challenge that you faced during the creation of your business?  How did you overcome it?

The website. We raised enough money to afford creating an in-house studio that will fill our website with hundreds of items daily.

10)  Would you be interested in hosting other events with Autism Speaks in the future?

DEFINITELY- namely in Ann Arbor and also online. Last month,  supporters were able to save 10% on their purchase with 10% of the  proceeds  going back to Autism Speaks U.

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College students, faculty and alumni can get involved with our college program, Autism Speaks U, by visiting www.AutismSpeaks.org/U. Autism Speaks U works with college students who host awareness, advocacy and fundraising events, while supporting their local autism communities.

My Voice

June 1, 2011 2 comments

This guest post is by Autism Speaks staffer Kerry Magro. Kerry, an adult who has autism, is a recent graduate of Seton Hall University. He started the club 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.

Almost a month ago I had the opportunity to speak at an Autism Awareness Event co-sponsored by the Mayor of Jersey City, Jeremiah Healy, the Jersey City Council and the Jersey City Public Schools.  I was honored as the keynote speaker of the event to talk about my experience with autism. I also received a proclamation from Jersey City, which is the second largest city in New Jersey and my hometown for my work on the subject.

While this was a wonderful honor, the best part of the event was the relationships I made with the parents who approached me afterwards. At the end of the day, this is the reason why I speak. To network but also to help consult for individuals with loved ones on the spectrum. In our community, we can only go as far as we are willing to help one another. There’s so much we have learned on the subject but there’s still a long way to go. Communication between all parties can never be excluded from the conversation. As I said in my speech that day, “Early Intervention is the Key,” however, communication is a close second.

Below you can find the video of my speech at that event. In it I share “My Voice” on the subject of autism and what it truly means to me. Feel free to comment below.

This is one of my Autism Speaks U related blog posts. If you would like to contact me directly about questions/comments related to this post I can be reached at kerry.magro@autismspeaks.org.

This One’s For You

May 19, 2011 28 comments

This guest post is by Autism Speaks staffer Kerry Magro. Kerry, an adult who has autism, is a recent graduate of Seton Hall University. He started the club 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.

Yesterday was my graduation from Seton Hall University. As this has been one of the most emotional and happiest days of my life I have taken some time to reflect on my journey and get my thoughts down on paper. Many people told me that my road towards a good education was going to be rough. The word “impossible” was a word that I learned very early on in regards to people’s opinions about whether or not I could get to college let alone graduate from college. Now I just have to say…

Kerry at graduation wearing the Autism Speaks pin, along with the 15 honor chords he collected at college.

To the physician who told me when I was 6 that I would be lucky to get to high school, this one’s for you.

For the Special Education teachers who would look down at me like I was broken, this one’s for you.

For the years of being taunted and bullied by kids, saying I can’t and wouldn’t achieve greatness, this one’s for you.

For the people who helped me through physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy till I was 14, this one’s for you.

For my parents, friends and relatives, who see me as an individual first who is/was never broken, this one’s for you.

For those teachers who said I could do it, this one’s for you.

For the countless other individuals out there who are autistic or love someone who is autistic, this one’s for you.

For the people who say you can’t do something even though you can this one’s for you.

For the people at Autism Speaks who have given me the chance to express my “voice” and help others through the Autism Speaks Blog for over a year now, this one’s for you.

At the end of the day our influences in our lives send us on our path, either good or bad. When I was 4 I was diagnosed on the spectrum. Now 18 years later I’m a college graduate who will be going to graduate school for a Master of Arts in Strategic Communication and Leadership. For all those people, again, the good and the bad, thank you. You’ve made me who I am today and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

…This one’s for you.

*On a side note, I wanted to add that I will be starting a scholarship program for individuals on the spectrum who are pursuing a post secondary program later this year. As a student, I know there is a lack of scholarship funding in this area and know even the smallest amount helps. Thanks for reading and remember to keep pushing everyday! We can all make a difference!*

This is one of my Autism Speaks U related blog posts. If you would like to contact me directly about questions/comments related to this post I can be reached at kerry.magro@autismspeaks.org.

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