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Spirits High on Special Day

On the far side of the court, between two sets of bleachers, several cheerleaders—some sporting white jerseys, others maroon – wave pom-poms. Just like the student athletes cruising the basketball court at Keuka College, they are represented by a mix of special needs students and their fellow classmates. It doesn’t matter which side scores, which student makes a basket or catches a pass, the cheers continue and the pom-poms keep on waving.

Penn Yan unified players warm up on the court

This is the spirit of the Special Olympics, where children with various physical and developmental disabilities play sports simply for love of the game. And Wednesday, that spirit was in full force as third to sixth graders at the Penn Yan and Dundee school districts met on the basketball courts at the Weed Physical Arts Center for the first-annual Special Olympics Unified Sports tournament. The event was sponsored by the College’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, with a number of SAAC members volunteering to help organize, officiate and run the tourney.

Two unified, or mixed, teams from each school competed, with the Penn Yan students sporting blue or orange jerseys while the Dundee teams boasted maroon or white uniforms. After the backdrop of rock music during pre-game warm-ups, each team was announced to the fans in the bleachers, jogging onto the court and lining up in rows in front of reserve team seats– just like high school and college teams. Vice President of Student Affairs Jim Blackburn welcomed the crowd and the athletes to the tourney, sharing the motto of the Special Olympics:

“Let me win,” Blackburn recited from memory. “But if I cannot win, let me at least be brave in the attempt.”

Teachers, administrators, classmates and families of the Special Olympians from each district were on hand to support the unified teams, with smartphones and cameras at the ready. In the top row of bleachers, classmates from the third-grade integrated classroom at Dundee, held up signs, cheering loudly for the athletes on the court below.

“The entire class petitioned to come – they wanted to support their classmates,” said Dundee Superintendent Laurie Hopkins-Halbert, a 1990 graduate of Keuka College. “They made signs and they’re yelling for their teams.”

Hopkins-Halbert said just the looks on the faces of the Special Olympians when they caught a pass or made a basket were a thrill to see.

“They have been so pumped to do this – and it’s an opportunity they don’t usually get. They have worked so hard at practice, and have put a lot of time into this. It is so exciting to see our kids out here,” she said. “Our regular students who are here have been phenomenal models and teachers for our [special needs] students as well. It’s just a win-win for everybody.”

Speaking of win-wins, at the Dundee team bench, wheelchair-bound third-grader William Smith met David Hull, who is also in a wheelchair. Hull is a 2012 graduate of the Keuka College DRIVE program, (diversity, responsibility, inclusion, vision, and experiential learning), which is a collaboration between the Yates County ARC, the College and Penn Yan Central School District. The DRIVE program provides 18-21-year-old special education students an opportunity to assimilate into the college environment and explore their personal goals.

“It’s awesome – honestly, I think I’m smiling more than they are out there,” said Mike Wainwright ’15, an occupational science major at the College, who volunteered to serve as a referee, and hopes to work with the special needs population as an occupational therapist after graduation. “It’s a rewarding experience to see the love of the game and smiles on everybody’s faces.”

More smiles appear on the court, as an attendant in a yellow volunteer T-shirt pushes William’s wheelchair, while William carries the ball in his lap. The pair make a pass to teammate Trey Brown, wearing No. 10 for the white Dundee team, and Trey makes a two-point basket. As Trey’s personal aide, also in a yellow T-shirt, lifts her arms in a V-sign for “victory,” the crowd in the stands goes wild. As the 10-minute half draws to a close, the crowd begins the countdown and the cheers erupt again.

During a snack break between games, Trey Brown joins his family on the bleachers, snacking on a cookie. Asked how he’s enjoying the tournament, Trey laughs and smiles in delight. “It was good, playing with William Smith in my class, and having friends here to watch,” translates Trey’s mom, Dawn Brown.

Trey Brown, right, smiles at a fellow teammate while waiting for the action to start on the court.

“It really makes his day that his family came to see him – we’ve got daddy and grandmas and grandpas from both sides – and Joshua and Bart and Frankie and Nick,” Brown adds, referring to Trey’s friends from school. “I was surprised that his general ed classroom got off for the day to come be spectators, too. That was nice they all made posters.”

“It’s really about tolerance, empathy, understanding and opportunity,” Hopkins-Halbert said. “I’ve heard nothing but positives from everybody.”

Penn Yan's orange team celebrates with the trophy and cheers for ALL the Olympians!

Simmons Showcases Photography at Keuka

Abby Simmons loves the Finger Lakes. Perhaps that’s why its rolling hills, rural landscapes and colorful foliage feature prominently in her photography.

sunset, tractor, silhouette, abby simmons, finger lakes, landscape, rural, field, orange

Simmon's sunset shot of a tractor in a local field

One night, heading to her parents’ farm in Bellona, Simmons crested a hill near Tomion’s Farm Market (off Route 14A) and noticed a tractor in a nearby cornfield. She pulled over and was absorbed in taking dozens of photos of the tractor’s silhouette against the setting sun, when her parents drove by.  They stopped when they saw her wading through the field with her camera.

“They catch me doing that a lot,” Simmons said with a smile.

The tractor at sunset image and many others will be featured  in the Lightner Gallery at Lightner Library at Keuka College Sept. 2 – Oct. 31. An artist’s reception will be held 4:30-6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 19, where light refreshments will be served.   Gallery hours may be found online at lightner.keuka.edu.

This will be Simmons’ first solo show. Her work first caught the eye of Melissa Newcomb, assistant professor of art and curator of the gallery, during last winter’s staff and faculty art exhibit. Simmons has worked as a staff member for Keuka’s D.R.I.V.E program for the last year-and-a-half. (more…)

Nuns, Crayons, and Music Men

Members of the student affairs staff were in the Halloween spirit as they captured first place with their box of crayons group costume.

What do a box of crayons, a bag of pepperoni, Flo of Progressive Insurance fame, a prom-going zombie, the Ball Hall tower, and a fox have in common?

Ariel Scott

They were all characters who won the annual Halloween costume contest held on the Keuka College campus Wednesday, Oct. 31.

Tracy McFarland, associate vice president for student development, portrayed the crayon box, while Eva Moberg-Sarver, director of student activities; Eric Detar, chaplain; and resident directors (RD) Kevin Perry, Tim White, Rebecca Capek, Margeaux DePrez, and Kelsey Deso posed as the crayons.

McFarland and her colorful crew earned first place in the group category.

Amanda Burlingame

Junior Ariel Scott (zombie), an organizational communication major from Unadilla, received the top prize in the scariest category, while the most original prize went to Amanda Burlingame, a senior adolescent mathematics/special education major from Keuka Park, for her portrayal as Flo.

Nathan Calabria

Jennie Snyder

The top costumes in the male and female categories went to Nathan Calabria (the fox), and Jennie Snyder (pepperoni). Calabria and Snyder, part of the D.R.I.V.E. program, earned $30 each for their efforts.

Sue DeLyser

For staff and faculty, a Halloween hat contest with desk-to-desk competition, was held. Human Resources Manager Sue Delyser, earned bragging rights with her ‘hat’—the Ball Hall tower.

Each contestant received a gift certificate to the Terrace Café courtesy of AVI Fresh, the College’s food service provider.

More Halloween photos.

Make it 6 in a Row

In 2011, CSCY volunteers washed fire trucks at the Branchport-Keuka Park Fire Department.

For the sixth straight year, Keuka College has been named to the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll, the highest federal recognition a college or university can receive for its commitment to volunteering, service-learning, and civic engagement.

The Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), which has administered the Honor Roll since 2006, admitted 642 colleges and universities for their impact on issues from literacy and neighborhood revitalization to supporting at-risk youth.

Honorees are chosen based on a series of selection factors including the scope and innovation of service projects, the extent to which service-learning is embedded in the curriculum, the school’s commitment to long-term campus-community partnerships, and measurable community outcomes as a result of the service.

In the past year, Keuka College students dedicated nearly 96,000 hours of service to the community. Here are three of the many local organizations and programs that benefit from the time and talents of Keuka students: Milly’s Pantry, a local food pantry; Celebrate Service… Celebrate Yates, an annual day of community service organized by students and the Yates County Chamber of Commerce; and the DRIVE (diversity, responsibility, inclusion, vision, experiential learning) program, a partnership between the Yates ARC, Penn Yan Central School, and the College that provides on-campus learning and life training skills to area students with special needs, ages 18-21.

CNCS oversees the Honor Roll in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Education, Department of Housing and Urban Development, Campus Compact, and the American Council on Education. It is a federal agency that engages more than 5 million Americans in service through its Senior Corps, AmeriCorps, and Learn and Serve America programs, and leads President Obama’s national call to service initiative, United We Serve. For more information, visit www.nationalservice.gov.

Beyond the Hospital Walls

In the world of higher education, the niche Keuka has carved with its occupational sciences program is virtually unparalleled for a small, private, liberal arts college.

Studying anatomy of the body is part of Keuka's OT program.

In 2010, three state-of-the-art occupational therapy (OT) labs opened where students are taught cutting-edge OT techniques. Keuka boasts a pediatric play lab, a clinical care lab and a community living skills lab, set up much like a small apartment, where some 95 upperclass and graduate students take classes in occupational science. Nearly all students in Keuka’s OT program go on to a fifth year of study at the graduate level, in order to qualify for the certification exam that must be passed to obtain a permanent license as an occupational therapist.

A unique change to the program is that while Keuka’s OT students are building diverse, hands-on skills, it’s not all happening inside the walls of hospitals or schools. Traditional placements like a hospital are now supplemented by non-traditional placements, said Jean Wannall, Ph.D., who coordinates field work placements for OT students and is a full professor in the program.

“We’re seeing fewer jobs in traditional settings because of the changes in Medicare and Medicaid,” said Wannall.”A lot of agencies are downsizing and letting therapists go, so we are training therapists to be entrepreneurs, to go out and seek places where there could be a niche. At hospitals, the length of stay is shorter and shorter these days as people are being pushed out into the community quicker and quicker. More care is happening out in the community.”

Toys are part of therapy for children in the OT program.

In addition, OTs may find more work with assisted living communities or home health care as more members of the aging population try to stay in their own homes as long as possible, Wannall said. Keuka lies in Yates County, one of the poorest counties in the state, and other opportunities for non-traditional OT support may lie in areas with migrant workers, those who are illiterate, or other needy individuals, she said.
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