April is Autism Awareness Month, which is an excellent time to think about one of the core values of this great college: diversity. Diversity is a word that means a lot to us as students in the LIVES Program at Geneseo. LIVES stands for “Learning Independence, Vocational, and Educational Skills,” and it is a program based on diversity.
The LIVES Program is offered through the college in conjunction with outside agencies that support people with disabilities: The Arc of Livingston-Wyoming, Genesee Valley Educational Partnership and Finger Lakes Developmental Disabilities Services Office. In the LIVES Program, students with all types of disabilities – autism, down syndrome and speech, intellectual and physical disabilities – learn, work and socialize with each other and with students who don’t have disabilities.
We are proud to be an active part of a thriving Geneseo student body. Like so many of our non-disabled peers, some of us started out as shy, nervous freshmen who feared being thought of as “different.” Those thoughts change with time and experience, however.
Over the course of our four years here, us LIVES students studied beside you, dined with you on Main Street, played and grew in integrated social settings and lent a helping hand through our internships at Milne Library, the mail room, Merritt workout center and the dining halls.
Next month, our seniors will walk across the stage like every other graduating student, decked out for commencement in full cap and gown. Our dads will beam with pride. Our moms will shed some tears. And after the pomp and circumstance, we’ll face the “real world” together, with excitement in our eyes and butterflies in our bellies.
Then we’ll go our separate ways. Some of us will hunt for jobs, and others will go on to further studies. But we’ll all look back at our time at Geneseo as some of the best years of our lives, with immense gratitude for the friends, faculty and staff members who gave us confidence to succeed.
Our internship supervisors come to mind: chef Bob Grant at Mary Jemison; Colleen Hopkins, Mary Fran Tiede and Patricia Hoffman at Milne; Cindy Wood at the mail room; Paul Simmons at the fitness center; and chef Deena Kingston at Red Jacket. Thank you for helping us to set goals, working closely with us and always believing in our abilities.
Other difference-makers for us include our graduate student assistant teachers, Molly Jones and Brittany Rauber; all of the professors who welcome us to audit their classes (there are too many to name); our teacher aides, Viki Kellogg and Jen Buchwald; and Elizabeth Hall and Tabitha Buggie-Hunt, who have guided the LIVES Program since it began more than five years ago.
Finally, we’d like to wish all the very best to the “traditional” students with whom we learn and laugh. You help us a lot, and we’d like to think that you gain something valuable from our diversity. After all, we’re not your average Geneseo students.
But then again, is there even such thing as an “average Geneseo student?” The truth is, we are each extraordinary in our own special way.
Thanks for sharing this journey with us.
- The Students of Geneseo’s LIVES Program