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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.

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.

Autism Awareness Month Kickoff at Brandeis University

April 16, 2010 1 comment

This is a guest post by Jake Crosby. Jake is a college student with Asperger Syndrome at Brandeis University who is double majoring in History and Health: Science, Society and Social Policy.

On March 19, a Friday night, SPECTRUM – the autism awareness organization at Brandeis University, threw its first-ever related event in conjunction with Brandeis’s B-deis Records. The time was from 9 p.m. to midnight, and the place was Chalmondley’s – the coffee house on campus, popularly known as “Chums.” An array of bands from every genre of music from techno, to folk, to fusion, to alternative rock, came to perform at an event hosted by Brandeis records. For that night, all these diverse groups had but one thing in common: they were raising money and awareness for autism.

Throughout the event I was overjoyed to see the enthusiasm of all my fellow students present. It was a gathering unlike one I had ever seen before. These students, most of whom I previously had nothing to do with, presumably because of the virtual wall built up between us by my condition, were now here to show their support for those affected by the disability that has separated them and I until then.

After a flurry of announcements towards the beginning, I had my minute or two of fame when the microphone was turned over to me, where I was introduced as “Jake Crosby from the autism spectrum.” I then spoke about our club, the event, and I encouraged people to donate money to the families of Massachusetts affected by autism (Brandeis is located in Waltham, Mass., nine miles west of Boston).

Then the performance continued with the talented groups going up and playing, while throughout telling the audience emphatically to donate money for autism. The night was kicked off with Jess Saade and Fizz, who were followed by Tess Razer, a techno duo who were performing their first performance ever. They sure got off to a great start. They were followed by Zoey Hart and Paul Gale, who played an authentic folk duet. Doug Moore then went up who taught everyone what a great performance you can give with just an acoustic guitar, followed by the IceKimonians – an all-Asian alternative rock group who managed to fool everyone, or at least myself, into thinking they were Japanese – they weren’t. All these groups, in spite of their shockingly different musical tastes, all had one great thing in common: they were relentless in telling everyone to donate for autism, and in spreading awareness for the disorder at the end of each song.

One performer, Lisa Fitzgerald, and in my view one of the best musicians, even correctly stated the current prevalence of the disorder – 1%! After her, came the last act, when an enormous fusion group of about seven or so people called “Code Rad” got up to give the ending finale – a dazzling performance of guitars, basses, drums, saxes and horns. It was by far the largest group to have performed all night, a night to remember.

We did fairly well for donations. I did not count the precise amount, but from my brief glance at the collections box, I could tell we had a considerably generous audience, thanks largely in part to the persistence of the musicians in telling everyone to give to this good cause. I am very thankful to all them for their work and also thankful to B-Deis Records for putting on this event for us, especially Charley Wolinsky for being such a great announcer, not to mention Chums for hosting the event. I would also like to thank Fizz, who really helped make this even turn out to be as successful as it was. Last but not least, one person who particularly deserves credit for making this all happen is my fellow co-founder, Lauren Grewal, for setting it up in the first place.

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