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Posts Tagged ‘Autism Speaks U’

Keep Going, Keep Making a Difference

October 31, 2011 Leave a comment

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.

In late September, The Combating Autism Reauthorization Act (CARA) was passed through Senate and was then signed into law by our President Barack Obama. One of the champions in Senate who helped us get there was New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez. Almost 2 weeks ago he came to an autistic school called Regional Day in my hometown of Jersey City, New Jersey to give a speech about the significance of the act. What I was amazed at though was when I received a call from his office to speak at the event! In front of countless media, family, and friends I spoke about my story with autism and what the impact an act like this will have not only for me but for countless others who are affected by autism.

The Combating Autism Reauthorization Act as some may recall will grant 693 million dollars to the autistic community for the next 3 years. Even though this is a great feat we still most continue to push forward as I stress in my speech as autism never takes a vacation so neither can we.

Below is a Youtube clip of me speaking at the event that I hope you all enjoy. Thank you!

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.

GO BLUE for Autism Speaks U Photo Winners

October 19, 2011 3 comments

College students from across the country have submitted amazing pictures for our GO BLUE for Autism Speaks U Facebook photo contest! Winners were chosen by the number of Facebook “likes,” comments and creativity (how “blue” you could go!). Thank you to everyone who participated in this fun awareness campaign! The winners are as follows:

First Place: University of California, Irvine

First place wins a $200 grant for their next Autism Speaks U event


Second Place: Appalachian State University

Second place wins a $100 grant for their next Autism Speaks U event


 Third Place: University of California, Berkeley

Third Place wins a $50 grant for their next Autism Speaks U event


Honorable Mentions: Each winner receives a $25 grant for their next Autism Speaks U event

Case Western Reserve University: Best Use of a Human Puzzle Piece

Elmira College: Best Use of Decorations

Northwestern University: Best Action Shot

Rider University: Best Homemade Banner

Southeast Missouri State University: Best Use of Hand Signs & Face Paint

Stonehill College: Best Group Shot

Texas A&M: Best Pose

To view all Go BLUE photos click here. Autism Speaks U will email photo winners about prize details.

Autism Speaks U is a program designed for college students who host awareness, advocacy and fundraising events, while supporting their local autism communities. If you are interested in raising awareness on your college campus, visit www.AutismSpeaks.org/U.

Autism Speaks U Spotlight: Cornell University Chapter President

October 18, 2011 1 comment

This guest post is by Cynthia Vella, a junior at Cornell University. She is an Industrial and Labor Relations major as well as the founder and president of her school’s Autism Speaks U chapter! Autism Speaks U is a program designed for college students who host awareness, advocacy and fundraising events, while supporting their local autism communities.

As President and Founder of Autism Speaks U at Cornell University, I feel strongly attached to the goals and values of our newly established club. With an uncle who is autistic, I have heard the struggles my mother and her family went through years ago.

Because of this, I decided Cornell needed to spread awareness about autism to it’s own students. Gathering a few friends and meeting two more great board members along the way, the Autism Speaks U Cornell board has really come together to raise money and especially awareness around campus. Our university organizations have even reached out to help us promote our cause through various student organizations like Greek sororities, fraternities and Hillel. In our second semester on campus, we have expanded our club’s initiatives and are planning a Dance-a-Thon called Dance Now for Autism Speaks U, which we hope will have a huge impact on Cornell.

Members of Autism Speaks U Cornell University tabling to raise awareness.

While last semester was extremely successful, from earning funds through bake sales and through Greek life and Hillel events, this semester, the Autism Speaks U Cornell board has much planned to increase our presence on campus. While bake sales are always easy and fun fundraisers, we plan on holding our first annual Dance-a-Thon on October 22nd in one of our basketball courts with pre-sale tickets, refreshments, cookies, blue decorations, and giveaway t-shirts.

We are currently marketing the event around both the campus and Ithaca community through our school newspaper, media site, flyers and posters. We are also tabling at local dining halls and main libraries where there is a large traffic of students and faculty passing through. We want to reach out to different clubs such as A Cappella and dance groups.

Additionally, one of our board members, Conor Callahan, has teamed up with the Racker Center located in nearby Ithaca for our members to interact with local children affected by autism. We are excited to have this opportunity and plan to start doing smaller events like slumber parties in the spring semester. As our club continues expanding with almost 30 new members this fall, we have more and more great ideas to make the club more successful in our endeavors. New leaders stand out and our board welcomes more students to help raise funds and awareness. We are extremely excited to collaborate with our new members to make a difference in our community.

For more information about Autism Speaks U at Cornell University, contact the chapter president Cynthia Vella at autismspeaksucornell@gmail.com.

How Autism and Facebook Work

October 10, 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.

Oh the almighty power of social media. It all started for me my second semester of college. I went to a charity event near my hometown in Jersey City, New Jersey with a group of friends when someone asked me to “tag them” in a photo I took. I remember being slightly confused for a second until I was later introduced to the social networking tool of our generation called“Facebook.” It was the hip new trend that would evolve the way I communicated forever.

These memories came back to me earlier this month when I received 3 emails from parents within one week about the advantages and disadvantages of their young individuals with autism using Facebook. In the end, like many experts say, face-to-face interaction never plays second fiddle to online communication, but I think that’s easy for some to say when they are not referring to individuals with autism. I’ve been dealing with anxiety for years when it comes to face to face interaction. Between making enough eye contact, worrying about standing too close to someone, to having topics to discuss to avoid awkward silences, it in all essence becomes like a job, and that’s not fun. It’s a chore at times.

That’s why I love Facebook. I can decide to communicate with people during my free time, and when I feel the most comfortable in doing so. Between adding friends, towards starting groups with friends, playing games, instant messaging, adding photos, it gives you a new outlet to I think the main thing to remember is that most things must come in moderation. Facebook can be as much as a confidence builder in helping individuals with autism as it can be a deterrent if it’s over used (1-2 hours daily should be the max). That’s the key. Autism and Facebook work because it is a communication building tool for youth. After time it should help encourage involvement off the web. As I’ve progressed through Facebook I’ve spent less and less time on it, in exchange for hanging out face-to-face.

What are your thoughts on the subject? Do you have a loved one with autism who is just starting out on Facebook? What are your concerns? I know there are also a lot of underlying issues (cyber bullying, procrastination, etc.), so as always feel free to email me or comment below with any questions!

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.

What Autism Means to Me: Natalie Davis

October 3, 2011 13 comments

This guest post is by Natalie Davis, a senior at St. Olaf College in Minnesota majoring in chemistry. Natalie serves as Miss Minnesota 2011 and has adopted autism awareness as her pageant’s service platform.  

As I am sure is the case for most people who are touched by autism, I have always seen my disposition as the sibling of someone with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), as both a blessing and a curse. When I was a child, I knew my brother Trevor was different. He spent hours silently lining up toy cars into perfect rows instead of playing with other kids. He didn’t speak until he was 3, and he couldn’t produce a full sentence until he was 7. Trevor seemed to be in his own little world, but he and I were connected.

Natalie and her brother, Trevor

Even though Trevor couldn’t speak, I always knew what he needed. I was constantly on high alert regarding his emotions and any environmental factors that might upset him. For as long as I can remember, I have been his helper and protector. When kids bullied him, I quickly tried to explain, “He’s special ed.,” hoping they would have mercy. When he threw tantrums because he didn’t want to do his schoolwork, I slyly suggested a game of “tutor” instead. I helped him cover his ears when the sound of a fire truck was too much for him to bear.

Things have always been harder for Trevor. I went to a prestigious private school; Trevor was in public school in special education. I was invited to countless birthday parties; Trevor wasn’t invited to any. I was the star. I was the pageant queen, singer, athlete, and brilliant student. I seemed to have it all, but I had a brother who struggled.

Growing up with a brother who has ASD has not been easy. But when things get tough, my parents remind me to count my blessings. Despite his challenges, Trevor graduated from high school in the top 50% of his class, and he is currently a part-time student at St. Cloud State University. He plays piano, he is an excellent public speaker, and he is an Eagle Scout. His dream is to become a best-selling children’s book author. Just because Trevor is different does not mean that he is less. Yes, he faces challenges that most individuals never have to face, but the fact that he has continually overcome many those challenges makes Trevor extraordinary.

Autism Speaks U is a program designed for college students who host awareness, advocacy and fundraising events, while supporting their local autism communities.If you are interested in raising awareness on your college campus visit www.AutismSpeaks.org/U.

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.  

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