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Zach Ward is a ‘Fantastic’ DRIVE Student Peer Mentor

Editor’s Note: This is the eighth in a series of profiles of 2015 Student Employee of the Year nominees. The winner will be announced at a luncheon Wednesday, April 15.

Zachary Ward

A DRIVE student peer mentor’s primary role is to serve as a mentor and support individuals with developmental disabilities as they assimilate to the Keuka College environment and explore their personal goals for the future.

And according to Laurie Mault, who works in the DRIVE Peer Mentor Program, junior Zachary Ward takes his role as a DRIVE student peer mentor seriously.

Ward, an education major from LeRoy, “is ready, willing, and consistently strives to do his best,” said Mault. “One of his many strengths includes being able to work with several individuals with varying disability at one time, while staying focused on the point at hand.”

Another of Ward’s strengths is treating the DRIVE students with the respect that they deserve, added Mault.

“This is not always easy, as many of them don’t understand what respect is—and we unfortunately don’t always get respect in return,” said Mault. “Zach has a clear understanding of this and continues to treat them with compassion.”

According to Mault, Ward comes up with ideas for different, unique ways to put the needs of the students first. Sometimes, she said, the DRIVE peer mentors need to become very creative to be able to suit each of our individuals’ needs, and Ward is able to complete this task.

“He is always one step ahead and works with the individuals, and checks for understanding to make sure that they know what to do. He comes dressed for the part, and is a fantastic mentor for our DRIVE students,” said Mault. “Zach speaks to the students in a professional manner but also is sure they understand by asking questions based on the current topic.”

And Mault believes that is something that gives Ward an advantage, as he is a college student himself.

“This allows him to connect to our students on a different level,” she said. “He understands more of what their ‘college’ needs are. Zachary always strives to do his best and is consistently looking for ways to help the DRIVE students become better, like teaching them how to socialize on a better level with other college students. He has even introduced them into his ‘friend circle.’ Zach and his friends treat our individuals as equals.”

Which is what the role of a DRIVE student peer mentor is all about.

Keuka College Receives Grant to Enhance DRIVE Program

John Luppino, DRIVE program manager

Keuka College has received a $15,900 grant from the Daisy Marquis Jones Foundation to purchase a mobile computer charging station equipped with 15 laptop computers for the DRIVE (Diversity, Responsibility, Inclusion, Vision, and Experiential Learning) program.

DRIVE, a collaboration among Keuka College, ARC of Yates County, and Penn Yan Central School District, is a four-year certificate program that provides age appropriate and inclusive educational opportunities at Keuka College to college-age adults with cognitive disabilities.

The equipment will allow DRIVE students to take advantage of a web-based curriculum designed to help them develop key literacy and career skills needed for the ever-changing 21st century workplace.

“We are most appreciative of this generous gift from the Daisy Marquis Jones Foundation,” said College President Dr. Jorge L. Díaz-Herrera. “One of the priorities of the foundation is to give people the tools they need to be successful, which is what the DRIVE program is all about. Students graduate from the program with higher aspirations, increased self-esteem, improved social skills, and seeking a career.”

Keuka College designates one classroom for the DRIVE program, which was not equipped with computers. The College provides computer labs for all students—including those in the DRIVE program—but there was not a lab designated for exclusive use by DRIVE students.

John Luppino, (r) talks with Lewis Grady, a DRIVE student who will benefit from the new computer equipment received from the grant

As Keuka College implements its Digital Learning at Keuka College (DL@KC) initiative, computation will be embedded throughout the entire curriculum, ensuring students in all majors are able to leverage and adapt state-of-the-art digital tools to solve problems in the world of today at tomorrow. This grant allows DL@KC to be implemented in the DRIVE program as well.

The new mobile computing charging station and laptops will provide DRIVE students with full web access during class, allowing them to take advantage of the web-based EnvisionIT curriculum, which helps students develop reading/writing, information technology literacy, transition planning, and financial literacy skills.

“Students who complete the curriculum will have significantly higher levels of academic achievement, goal setting, career knowledge, and self-determination,” said John Luppino, DRIVE program manager.

Located in Rochester, the Daisy Marquis Jones Foundation is dedicated to improving the well-being of residents in Monroe and Yates counties by funding programs that aid disadvantaged children and families.

Karlee Roberts Encourages, Welcomes, and Open to Suggestions

Editor’s Note: This is the fifth in a series of profiles of 2014 Work Study Supervisor of the Year nominees. The winner will be announced at a luncheon Thursday, April 17.

As the work study supervisor for 40 peer mentors working in the D.R.I.V.E. program at Keuka College, Karlee Roberts is a wonderful role model, according to junior Jenna Bird, who nominated Roberts for the Work Study Supervisor of the Year award.

Bird, a D.R.I.V.E. peer mentor and unified childhood education major, said that Roberts makes the peer mentors feel like a part of the D.R.I.V.E. staff.

“Mentors have the opportunity to work one-on-one with students, and observe the staff members’ interactions with the students,” said Bird, a Batavia resident. “Karlee trusts us to work one-on-one with students, and that we will be able to handle different situations based on previous knowledge and training we have received.”

According to Bird, Roberts encourages the peer mentors to use their academic background in several ways, such as welcoming students to complete volunteer hours or a Field Period™ with the D.R.I.V.E. program.

“Karlee welcomes the peer mentors to apply the knowledge we have learned in our classes to situations with the D.R.I.V.E. students,” said Bird. “As an education major, I appreciate Karlee allowing us to use information we have learned in the classroom in real life situations.”

Bird said Roberts also places the peer mentors in different environments, so they have the chance to gain new knowledge from the experience.

“She is always open to new suggestions as to how to handle different situations with the D.R.I.V.E. students,” said Bird, “including how to help a student with their Keuka College classes. She is always in contact with us, either just to check in, or discuss any problems that may occur. She is always available if we have an issue and will meet with us to provide suggestions and advice.”

In addition, Roberts started a Mentor of the Month program. Each month, a mentor is nominated either by another peer mentor or a member of the D.R.I.V.E. staff.

“The Mentor of the Month program has been a great motivator for the peer mentors, and reassures us that we are doing a good job,” said Bird.“There is nothing Karlee won’t do to make sure her peer mentors are successful. She truly cares about all 40 of us, and she goes above and beyond to provide us with a positive and friendly work environment.”


Kayla Garrow is a ‘Natural Leader’ as a D.R.I.V.E. Program Peer Mentor

Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series of profiles of 2014 Student Employee of the Year nominees. The winner will be announced at a luncheon Thursday, April 17.

While the classic board game Scrabble may not be the first tool used to help students read and write, it is the perfect choice for some of the students in the D.R.I.V.E. program.

According to Karlee Roberts, peer mentor supervisor of the D.R.I.V.E. program, games like Scrabble are favorite tools for sophomore Kayla Garrow, a peer mentor for the D.R.I.V.E. program.

“Kayla loves to use games to help students work on words in our Wilson Class, which teaches reading and writing,” said Roberts, who nominated the occupational science major from Niagara Falls for the Student Employee of the Year Award. “She comes up with ideas to use in the classroom, and has been known to do a project at home and then bring it to class and teach the students how to do it.”

Roberts says the D.R.I.V.E. peer mentors work hard.

“They go to Keuka College classes with our students, help them with homework, and participate in our life skills classes,” she said. “They attend night and weekend activities with our students, and help them with socialization at lunch time. Some of our students are challenging, and it can take a lot of coaxing to get them to start work.”

But Roberts says Garrow has “this wonderful ability to find out why they are upset, or not wanting to work. Once she does, she can bring them around and make them feel better and ready to face the day. Not everyone can do this.”

It is because of Garrow’s ability to ‘bring them around’ that “teachers always request her for their classes because of how wonderful she is,” said Roberts. “She doesn’t need any direction from the classroom teachers, and independently identifies the needs of our students. Kayla knows what to do and does it well.”

Added Roberts: “Kayla is a natural leader who is focused on her job, and it is evident every day that she loves her job. She has an amazingly positive attitude, is reliable, professional, and serves as an excellent role model for our students, and for the other mentors in the program.”

NYSARC Honors College, Robert Lonie

Left to right: Deborah Fabris-Coon, senior director of day programs for ARC of Yates; Kate Ring, executive director of ARC of Yates; Dick Shaver, director of student sponsored services for the Penn Yan Central School District; Ann McMullen, president of the Arc of Yates Board of Directors; Dr. Anne Weed, vice president for academic affairs; Heather Bond, assistant to the senior director of education at Arc of Yates; and Robert Lonie.

Keuka College was recently recognized by the New York State ARC (NYSARC) for its “outstanding support in providing job opportunities for people who have intellectual and other developmental disabilities.”

The College received the 2013 Western Region Employer Recognition Award at a recent luncheon in Albany.

Keuka College has a long record of employing individuals with developmental and other disabilities through a partnership with the Arc of Yates.  More recently, the College, Arc of Yates, and Penn Yan Central School District joined forces to offer DRIVE (diversity, responsibility, inclusion, vision, and experiential learning), a four-year certificate program for college-age students with intellectual disabilities. (more…)