by Angela Chan, TPSID Grant Coordinator, Individualized Supports
In October, students and alumni from AHRC New York City’s Melissa Riggio Higher Education Program (MHREP) led two presentations at the Student Leadership Conference (SLC) at Syracuse University. The SLC is an offshoot of the State of the Art Conference on Postsecondary Education and Individuals with Developmental Disabilities, which “provides opportunities for colleges and universities, researchers, program staff, parents and self-advocates to learn about the current state of research and practice in the field, and to network with each other.”
Creativity and Self-Expression – Enhancing the Student Experience
In the first presentation, three recent graduates of the first graduating class of the MHREP at the Borough of Manhattan Community College discussed “Creativity Works: How Being Involved in Art Classes Enhance Your Experience as a Student.” Sam Wilkinson, Joseph Limery, and Charles Kleiman talked about how art classes can boost student confidence, reduce stress, and help students meet peers that like to be creative as well. They encouraged the audience to participate in a theater warm-up exercise and an art project as they shared their college experiences in the arts through photographs. Other topics discussed included how art can be academically challenging and potential careers in art post-graduation.
Moderator Kristen Thatcher, an alumna of MHREP’s College of Staten Island Class of 2013, led David Olenick, Danielle Levine, and Jacob Garrity in a panel presentation titled “Lobbying 101: A Self-Advocate’s Guide to Making Your Voice Heard.” David graduated from MHREP at Hostos Community College in 2017 while Jacob and Danielle are current students at BMCC and Kingsborough Community College, respectively.
The presenters talked about the three topics that are important to cover every time they meet with a legislator:
- What is my story?
- What issue am I here to talk about today and what is its effect?
- What action do I want the legislator to take?
Kristen and the panelists described how going to college and the experiences they encountered throughout their colleges helped them to experience new things, become more involved in their communities, and helped them to gain the confidence they needed to speak up and advocate for the things and issues they care about. A lot of the students in the audience that attended the conference did not know what lobbying was, what legislators do, or how to contact them. The presenters shared their personal stories of lobbying in Albany to shed light on how other students can begin the process of lobbying their legislators about what issues are important to them.
Both presentations were well-received by the students that attended. The Q&A session from the lobbying portion was highly active and participants were eager to learn more about how they could get involved in their communities. Student Vivica Black from Highland Community College in Seattle, Washington said “I thought the last presentation was very informational for students with disabilities because some students with disabilities, they don’t know the services that they have. They don’t know their voice and they get left out in the dark. And it was really [comforting] having students stand up for their rights and for their needs.”