Thursday, April 18, 2013

Congressman Chris Collins Meets with Arc Representatives

Arc of Livingston-Wyoming Board Treasurer Lyle Lehman (left) and Executive Director Chris Peterson (right) met with Congressman Chris Collins in Washington, DC on Monday, April 15th.  Collins represents New York's 27th Congressional District, which includes all of Livingston, Wyoming, Orleans, and Genesee counties and parts of Erie, Monroe, Niagara, and Ontario counties.

"Mr. Collins expressed an interest in visiting our agency and was supportive of our message," Mr. Peterson says.

Dr. Lehman and Mr. Peterson were in the nation's capital for the National Disability Policy Seminar, which is the premier policy gathering for people and groups with an interest in federal policy that relates to services for people with intellectual and other developmental disabilities.  The national Arc is one of the Advocacy organizations that helps to coordinate, and participates in, the annual conference.  The seminar had an overall attendance of 695 people.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

A GREAT Day for Students with Disabilities

Tuesday, April 16th was a GREAT Day for inclusion on the SUNY Geneseo campus, as about two dozen young people with disabilities shared their aspirations and accomplishments to an audience of faculty, family, and peers.
Kneeling, L to R:  John Feidner, Melissa Price,
Jewley Spencer, Matt Klein, Patrick Chmela, Keith Holmes.
Standing, L to R:  Andrew Sass, Jenna Diskin, Krista Coburn,
Tyler Bush, Robert Maplesden, Jonathan Kee,
Elimary Vazquez, Fred Young, Mariely Vazquez,
Chris Scheib, Emily Cook, Lauren Daly, Bea Rhodes.

The students, who are enrolled in a college-recognized program called LIVES (Learn Independence, Vocational, and Educational Skills), related their experiences working alongside non-disabled peers and preparing for life after graduation to a near-capacity audience in Newton Hall.  The presentation was part of Geneseo Recognizing Excellence, Achievement & Talent (GREAT) Day, a college-wide symposium celebrating students' creative and scholarly endeavors.

The LIVES Program is an educational and vocational initiative for students with intellectual and other developmental disabilities.  It is funded through a collaborative partnership with the college, Hilltop Industries (a division of The Arc of Livingston-Wyoming), Genesee Valley Educational Partnership (GVEP), and Finger Lakes Developmental Disabilities Services Office.
Dustin Fredericy

LIVES students follow the same four-year structure as their traditional counterparts.  Their GREAT Day presentation was divided into four sections that illustrated students' growth from their Freshman through Senior years.

Freshmen presented "Comparing Strengths and Struggles with Geneseo Students," which contrasted everyday challenges for students with disabilities to those of their non-disabled peers.  Second year students focused on the skills are required to be a productive student, drawing from their experiences auditing college courses and taking part in internships.  Juniors explored "What the Future Holds: Looking at Life After Graduation," where students discussed how internships at the campus library, dining hall, bookstore, and fitness center are helping them to prepare for the work world.

John Feidner
Representing the LIVES Senior class, Jewley Spencer discussed what it takes to be an effective role model, drawing from her own educational and social growth through the LIVES Program.  After her 10-minute talk, Jewley presented a bouquet of flowers to Dr. Elizabeth Hall, a SUNY Geneseo faculty member who established the LIVES program five years ago, and has served as a role model for the group.

Following the large session, a smaller group of LIVES students headed to the MacVittie College Union, where they conducted mini-presentations that focused on their personal passions.  John Feidner's topic was technology, Ellen Beinsheim discussed heart surgery, Andrew MacDonald tackled speech therapy, Tyler Gerace spoke about hair loss from the medical condition Alopecia, and Dustin Fredericy discussed the hidden intricacies of professional wrestling.

For more information on the LIVES Program, visit

Friday, April 12, 2013

Mills, Hammond Earn Arc Foundation Scholarships

Congratulations to Jessica Hammond, of Wyoming, and Anne Mills, of Geneseo, The Arc of Livingston-Wyoming Foundation's 2013 scholarship winners.

Anne Mills (left) and Jessica Hammond
Each year, The Arc Foundation celebrates the commitment of young people toward people with disabilities by awarding scholarships of $2,000 each to graduating high school seniors from Wyoming and Livingston Counties. 

Pavilion High School's Jessica Hammond intends to pursue a career as a special education teacher. "I plan on getting my master's in special education," she explains.  "It is my hope to work with both physically and mentally challenged students in some sort of school setting."

Throughout high school, Jessica has participated in soccer, basketball, softball, National Honor Society, chorus, and Girls Service League.  In the community, she is active in her church, and was a team captain for the Walk Now for Autism Speaks fundraising event.

"My cousin is just one of the 1 million Americans living with Autism today," she says.  "(He) inspired me to become a special education teacher because of the changes I have seen in him in the past few years.  I hope to go into this field and help to positively change the lives of children with physical/mental disorders, because they too deserve the chance to become fully functional members of society."

Geneseo High School's Anne Mills' goal is to teach special education in an inclusive environment.  "My career plans include being an inclusive education teacher either in a school setting, hospital, or nursing home," she explains.  "(I would like to) help people with developmental disabilities by providing a safe and stimulating environment for them to live and grow in."

Anne has been active in Girl Scouts, Student Council, volleyball, track & field, cheerleading, and Valley School of Dance.  She is a recipient of the Elite Athlete Award and "Triple C" Award for Courage, Commitment, and Character.

Anne has volunteer experience with her church, Strong Memorial Hospital, Council on Alcohol and Substance Abuse (CASA), Together Including Every Student (TIES), and the National Down Syndrome Buddy Walk.  In 2010 and 2012, she was a Special Education Intern at Geneseo Elementary School.

"I've always put the people I am working with first," she says.  "The relationships that I form with these students is the most rewarding.  The smiles that I receive make all of my volunteering and time spent worthwhile."

Monday, April 1, 2013

Arc of Livingston-Wyoming Gives Back to Local Kids

The Arc of Livingston-Wyoming participated in NYSARC's President's Project Week to give back to local communities March 25th through March 31st with an agency-wide "Food for Families" drive that benefits Livingston County Head Start.  The chapter collected about 150 healthy food items that will be distributed to area children. 

Brandon Pepin, Mary Tuso, Heather Bump, Juan Padilla,
Mark Hathaway, Chris Peterson, and Deb Tuckerman
give back through The Arc of Livingston-Wyoming's
"Food for Families" drive.
Head Start is a is a nation-wide program of the United States Department of Health and Human Services that provides education, health, nutrition, and parent involvement services to children and families based on financial need.  Locally, Livingston County Head Start serves 71 three- and four-year-old children.

Preparation for the food drive began in February at KidStart, The Arc of Livingston-Wyoming's children's services program, where the Food for Families Committee identified 12 key foods to be collected for Head Start families.  Next, each of 10 Arc locations focused on collecting 1-2 of the designated items.  For example, peanut butter and jelly were collected at KidStart, spaghetti and sauce at the Hilltop Industries work center in Mount Morris, and macaroni and cheese at Hilltop's East Avon location.

Staff and program participants pitched in throughout the month of March, and particularly stepped up their efforts during President's Project Week, which is when the greatest number of donations were made.

"We collected oatmeal at our administration building," explains Public Relations Director Jeff Thomas.  "Donations were slow and steady for the first three weeks.  Then on Monday, March 25th employees suddenly stepped up with about 25 pounds in one day.  That's a lot of oatmeal, and every item collected is a small but important step in ending hunger in this area."

Items collected included oatmeal (28 boxes), peanut butter (28 jars), jelly/jam (24 jars), macaroni & cheese (15 boxes), canned spaghetti products (13 cans), boxed pasta (11 boxes), granola bars (7 boxes), popcorn (5 boxes), and spaghetti sauce (3 jars). Cereal, soup, and pudding/fruit cups were also collected.

KidStart staff will distribute the food to Livingston County Head Start families from their Lehman Building in Groveland, located in the center of Livingston County.

The Arc of Livingston-Wyoming is one of 55 Chapters of NYSARC, a state-wide organization supporting approximately 60,000 people with intellectual and other developmental disabilities and their families.  President's Project Week is an annual initiative by the state organization to collectively conduct volunteer programs during a single week, sending a resounding message about NYSARC Chapters' deeply rooted connections to their communities.