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The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The faces of the Kinney Center

Juliette Joseph ’20, one of the Kinney SCHOLARS, poses with one of the Camp Kinney attendees in 2017.

Kinney Center SCHOLARS offer support.

With approximately 30 of its SCHOLARS, set to graduate in May, the Kinney Center for Autism Education and Support is about to lose 20 percent of its student staff.

Currently, 146 students participate in the SCHOLARS program, which trains undergraduates to assist with year-round programs offered by the Kinney Center. SCHOLARS stands for Students Committed to Helping Others Learn about Autism Research and Support.

Destiny Green 18 is one of those graduating seniors. She has been working at the Kinney Center since her senior year of high school.

“This is the reason I chose Saint Joseph’s University,” said Green, who is an interdisciplinary health services major and autism studies minor.

Green said she was drawn to learning more about autism after helping two cousins who are on the autism spectrum.

“It sparked my interest to learn more, and I fell in love with it that way,” Green said.

SCHOLARS used to be hired during a small application process that took place once a year, according to Christopher Fox, assistant director of programs at the Kinney Center.  But since the Kinney Center has grown – now serving over 850 families – SCHOLARS are hired year round.

The Kinney Center also offers three trainings a year for SCHOLARS, in August, January and May. SCHOLARS are trained for a minimum of 20 hours.

The work SCHOLARS end up doing is as varied as the programs that Kinney offers, from assisting St. Joe’s students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in the university’s ASPIRE program, to helping adults in the Adult Day Program who have aged out of the school system.

About eight to nine SCHOLARS work closely with students in the ASPIRE program. Patrick Gorman ’18 has the distinction of both having been in the ASPIRE program and now working as one of the SCHOLARS. Last fall, he assisted the Kinney Center with a new robotics program for kids with ASD, a perfect fit for Gorman’s information technology major.

“After one year of being a part of ASPIRE program as a student, I wanted to help give back to the incoming students,” Gorman said.

Like Gorman, David Hummel ’20 is both a student with ASD and a SCHOLAR.

“I wanted to join Kinney because that way I can not only be able to express myself more, but at the same time understand more about what it means to be autistic,” Hummel said.

In addition to ASPIRE, SCHOLARS can work with programs such as Youth Social Skills, Transitional Social Skills, Adult Life and Social Skills, Family Night Out, Sports and Recreation, and summer programs, including Camp Kinney.

“They work one-on-one with an individual with autism and they work on different social skills, different life skills, and just preparing them for some things that are outside Kinney,”  said Alexa Musumeci, assistant director of program support. “They work all our different programs.”

Julia Ford 18 works with adults in the Day Program, and said she wished she had applied to be a part of the SCHOLARS program earlier in her academic career at St. Joe’s.

“The learners make me smile every single day,” Ford said. “The kids here are genuinely happy and that makes the rest of the SCHOLARS happy.”

Kinney’s summer camp programs need the support of about 110 to 120 SCHOLARS, according to Fox.

A former member of the SCHOLARS program, Erin Breen ’19 worked at Camp Kinney in 2016 and 2017, the first summer with kids ages 7 to 11 and last summer with kids ages 3 to 5.

“Camp Kinney is beautiful in its ability for the SCHOLAR to see their impact on the lives of the children and clients,” Breen said. “It is hard to put into words the feeling of fulfillment and pride that comes with helping someone you’ve grown to really care about learn skills they will use for the rest of their lives.

Gorman said the formula for success as a SCHOLAR is simple.

“You need a willingness to work with sometimes challenging children and adults and a desire to help people,” Gorman said.

The challenges also come with rewards for the students who choose to be SCHOLARS.

“I think everyone that has been there has benefited somehow,” Ford said. “Those kids touch everyone.”

That’s been the case for Hummel, too.

“I just received so much strength and courage from it,” Hummel said.

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