This guest post is written by Katie Rodgers, the President of the Autism Speaks U Chapter at Saint Joseph’s University.
Autism Speaks U, an initiative of Autism Speaks that is designed to support college students, faculty and staff in their awareness, advocacy and fundraising efforts.
I became involved with Autism Speaks three years ago when I was a freshman. I had been working with individuals on the spectrum since the summer going into my freshman year at Saint Joe’s. Our campus has an amazing program, The Kinney Center, which provides social skills and life skills services for individuals of all ages.
Through this opportunity, the entire chapter has gained hands on experience, which has proved invaluable in providing options and insight for our future career plans. With help from The Kinney Center, Saint Joseph’s University has actually even recently added an Autism Behavioral Studies Major.
As the NCAA Autism Awareness Basketball Weekend rapidly approaches, Saint Joseph’s University has been gearing up. Our campus’s chapter of Autism Speaks U has partnered with the Saint Joseph’s University Basketball Program, dance team, cheerleaders, and student section to raise awareness and support for Autism Speaks. The cheerleaders and dance teams will be wearing autism ribbons throughout the game to show support for those impacted by autism. In addition, our men’s basketball coach, Phil Martelli, will be wearing the blue Autism Speaks puzzle piece pin for the second year in a row. Our student section will also be holding up signs with autism statistics written on them as well as a giant banner that will be displayed at some point during the game.
Our Autism Speaks U chapter has also been selling t-shirts all week for the big event. These shirts integrate our school pride with our dedication to autism awareness by proudly displaying SJU spelled out in blue puzzle pieces and a blue hawk on the front of them. We are encouraging students to wear these shirts to the game to show their support for a great cause. Our very own Phil Martelli will be posing for a picture with the student section as well for the cause. The day of the big game, our chapter will be handing out free stickers, tattoos, and bracelets to fans. We will also be distributing pamphlets that detail the mission behind Autism Speaks. T-shirts and puzzle pieces will be for sale and all of the proceeds will go directly to Autism Speaks.
The Kinney Center and Autism Speaks U have worked closely together over the years to further drive autism awareness, research, education, and support and we look forward to continuing this effort along with all the other chapters and universities involved.