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.
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.
“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.”
Several members of the Keuka College community were seen streaking across campus today (Friday, Oct. 25).
Streaking their hair, that is.
And it was for a good cause. The Keuka Against Cancer Club and Women’s Center dedicated the week of Oct. 21-25 to raise awareness of breast cancer.
The highlight of the week was a friendly staff and faculty competition to see who could raise the most money to be donated to the American Cancer Society. The faculty or staff member who raised the most was asked to streak his or her hair pink.
Jim Blackburn, vice president for student development, raised the most money—$81—and not only streaked his hair pink, but also part of his beard.
In addition to Blackburn, who received breast cancer pins, bracelets, and a t-shirt for his fundraising efforts, other members of the College community donated money to streak their hair pink ($1), or blue, purple, or green ($.50).
“The money we raised, nearly $200, will be sent to the American Cancer Society to help find a cure for breast cancer,” said Rebecca Capek, resident director of Saunders Hall and a Success Advocate. Capek also serves as adviser to the Keuka Against Cancer Club.
Other activities included ‘painting’ the campus pink by tying pink ribbons around trees; breast cancer Jeopardy!; a bra toss game; lunch with a breast cancer survivor; breast cancer t-shirt sales; and various give-aways and prizes.
Fourteen faculty and staff members were recognized for their service and dedication to Keuka College at Community Day Aug. 20.
Five-year service awards were presented to: Brie Deacon, admissions communications manager, marketing, and web; Judy Jones, library acquisitions clerk; Michael Keck, professor of chemistry and chair of the Division of Natural Sciences, Mathematics, and Physical Education; Marlaine “Sparki” Mangles, associate professor of wellness; and Lisa Marciniak, assistant director of international enrollment in the Center for Global Education.
Ten-year service awards were presented to: Jim Blackburn, vice president for student development; Carol Grover, controller; and Stephanie Craig, chair, Division of Social Work, and associate professor of social work.
A 20-year service award was presented to Jennifer Bates, director of financial aid.
A 45-year service award was presented to Sander Diamond, professor of history.
Merit awards were presented to Dale Mosher, sergeant, Office of Campus Safety; Tom Jackson, marketing and administrative manager for traditional admissions; Dawn Chambry, assistant director of development; Michele “Mikki” Sheldon, administrative assistant for the Division of Academic Affairs; and Doreen Hovey, executive assistant to vice president for academic affairs.
Presidential Awards for Sustained Outstanding Achievement were presented to Joan Magnusen, professor of biology, and Janice Folts, business office coordinator.
Keuka College has long been touted for its family-like atmosphere.
And a new effort by the Office of Student Affairs just might bring the family even closer, while hopefully having a positive impact on retention. In addition to their regular duties, the College’s seven residence directors (RDs) will become success advocates (SAs) for this year’s new crop of matriculates.
The role of the SAs is to be a friend, another resource on campus to help the students solve problems, and guide them on their path to graduation.
“We usually hear of unsuccessful students when we can no longer help them,” said Jim Blackburn, vice president for student development and dean of students. “What the success advocates will do is reduce some of the reactivity. We want to be proactive, connect with students right away, and focus on ways that will make each student successful.”
Seen as a front line resource for students, the SAs include RDs Margeaux DePrez (Space Hall), Eugene Mont (Ball Hall), Tim White (Blyley and Harrington Halls), McKala Accetura (Strong Hall Apartments), Kelsey Deso (Davis Hall), Rebecca Capek (Saunders Hall), and Kevin Perry (Keuka Park Apartments). (more…)
On Sunday, Ashley Ortiz worked with a team of fellow Keuka College students to clean inside the sanctuary of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Penn Yan, and plant a few flowers and greenery in the beds outside.
The freshman occupational therapy major was one of about 175 volunteers – including youth, families, seniors or Keuka students – who came together Sunday for Celebrate Service … Celebrate Yates(CSCY), to perform community service tasks at non-profit sites around Yates County.
This year marked the 15th anniversary of the event, which is a collaboration between the College and the Yates County Chamber of Commerce. Volunteers team up on a variety of tasks, including painting, cleaning, and minor repair work for the non-profits. It was clear Sunday that even chilly temperatures could not dampen spirits.
“It’s just nice to be able to help the people that are around the College,” Ortiz said, adding that in her hometown of Olean, volunteer service enjoys strong support as well. “I’m sure they appreciate us coming out, even if we are only doing a few ‘little things.’ Every little bit helps in some way, especially if you keep doing this every year – it adds up.” (more…)