January 1, 2013 | News
In January, Project REACH (Resources and Education on Autism as CUNY’s Hallmark), an initiative of the Central Office of Student Affairs (COSA), hit a very important milestone in the project’s progress. Project REACH celebrated its one-year anniversary by holding a second annual Strategic Advisory Meeting in February. The three-hour meeting gathered professionals in the autism spectrum disorder (ASD) community from all around New York to review work done, talk about plans going forward and get valuable feedback into issues important to ASD students in higher education. With the objective to make year two even better, invitations were extended to key stakeholders involved with the project and with students on the spectrum.
Dr. Lisa Pollich, REACH’s Project Director, provided opening greetings at the gathering. University Assistant Dean for Student Affairs, Chris Rosa explained that the number of students with autism in higher education is rapidly increasing, referring to Project REACH as an “agent of institutional and cultural change.” Dr. Shirlee Taylor, Executive Director of the FAR Fund (which provides funding for the project), shared information about autism in society. Dr. Pollich then provided additional information about the history of Project REACH and an update on what the project had accomplished in the past year–creation of a newsletter and website, conference presentations, distribution of grant money to campuses and meetings with students–and what the project plans to do in the future. The importance of student outreach, educational training for the campus community and collaboration across disciplines was also emphasized.
Following, the recipients of Project REACH mini-grant funding presented their campus projects and discussed the work’s impact on students with ASD. Many aspects of the projects include student orientation, transition to college, community outreach, peer mentoring, academic screening, student engagement, campus awareness, curriculum redevelopment, advisement and counseling, self-advocacy skills-building, extracurricular activities and workshops.
Participants were in attendance from the CUNY colleges of Hunter, Brooklyn and Baruch and the College of Staten Island; Queensborough Community College, Borough of Manhattan Community College, Kingsborough Community College; CUNY LEADS, the CUNY School of Professional Studies, CUNY Coalition for Students with Disabilities (CCSD), Academic Affairs, Office of the Dean of Health and Human Services as well as outside organizations including Fordham University, New York City Department of Education, Asperger Syndrome High Functioning Autism Association, Spectrum Services and Asperger Syndrome Training Employment Partnership.
The meeting reinvigorated REACH’s commitment to helping students on the spectrum get the most out of their college experience and project administrators expressed great appreciation to all engaged. A special thanks was extended to Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, Frank Sanchez and University Dean for Health and Human Services, William Ebenstein for their guidance and support and also to the FAR Fund for funding the initiative. For more information about Project REACH, visit the website at www.cuny.edu/projectREACH.