…the piece that fulfilled David Hummel’s ’20 journey of self-discovery.
As someone with autism, adapting to any kind of change can be hard, and my tale of transitioning is no different. Yet when I was looking at colleges and learned about Saint Joseph’s Jesuit ideals and heard about Saint Joseph’s Kinney Center for Autism Education and Support, I knew that this would be home for me. I was hesitant to join clubs or branch out as soon as I arrived on campus; I wanted to try and spend as much time as possible on getting acclimated to my new surroundings and focus on schoolwork. But with the help of the Kinney Center and Campus Ministry, I found that balance between schoolwork and social life, allowing me to fully immerse myself in all that SJU has to offer.
The Kinney Center was founded to help those with autism learn the skills they need to succeed in the world. While it serves those of all ages on the autism spectrum, it also trains the next generation of autism specialists. Through Kinney, I learned life skills I thought I already knew, like balancing budgets for when I live alone, how to correctly read financial reports like auto loans, lease agreements, and how to prepare many different types of food. Before Kinney, I hadn’t touched a knife or cut anything with it; now, I can slice, dice, and cook on the stove without fearing that I will burn the house down! The Kinney SCHOLARS (Students Committed to Helping Others Learn about Autism Research and Support) have become great friends of mine; I don’t know where I would be without their company and assistance.
My involvement in Campus Ministry helped shape me into who I am outside of Kinney. When I first got involved in Campus Ministry, I felt a piece of my life was incomplete and I realized my life was lacking spiritually. With the assistance of campus ministers and those in the church, I discovered my place in this world not only as a person of the faith but as a person in general. I began my journey to becoming a full Catholic through SJU’s RCIA (The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) Program. This program assists people of any age above infant baptism to become full Catholics. Having already been baptized, I wanted to become a full Catholic and receive the sacraments of First Holy Communion and Confirmation. I attended Mass at SJU and felt I belonged in this loving and accepting community.
I reached out to Fr. Dan Ruff, S.J., and he helped guide me through the RCIA process. I got involved in the spiritual exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola and attended retreats through SJU. I even participated in a five-day retreat of silence with a couple of other SJU students. We learned more about the Jesuits, their teachings and life styles while also spending alone time with God. I can’t believe that I was able to not only complete the retreat by being silent for a majority of the trip, but I was able to relax, be at peace with God and myself, and read three books in three days! I also participated in the Ignite retreat, the freshman retreat led by upper-classmen. This retreat allowed us to explore our faith and create bonds with our classmates in small group discussion and other team-building activities. Through Ignite, I met new people and re-kindled relationships from the fall semester. Through the help of the SJU community and the RCIA program, I received the Sacraments of Confirmation and Holy Communion on April 23rd.
A highlight of my freshman year was when I made the half-court shot at a men’s basketball game in Hagan Arena. At any SJU basketball game, you will see and feel the excitement of the fans. Whenever a student attempts to do a half-court shot, the whole student section wishes you the best… by cheering at the top of their lungs and stomping their feet. When halftime arrived, I made my way to half-court and attempted the first half-court shot in my life but was just shy of making it. I had one shot left, and I had to collect myself. The student section started chanting “Dave!” “Dave!” “Dave!” and I was immediately overwhelmed. On my last attempt, I heaved the ball and watched it soar….. into the net. My gift was the best thing you could ask for: free books for the next semester, and I was even featured in a local newspaper.
As all this was happening, time seemed to fly, and soon, it was time to leave for Winter Break. As soon as I left to head home, I wanted to go back. I had so many great friends and memories made there and I just wanted them to continue and never end. I counted down the days until I was able to go back to school and enjoy the fun all over again. Despite the challenges of waiting, I was able to get back on time and enjoy the second half of freshman year. Then, Spring Break was fast approaching, and I had to relive Winter Break all over again. While it did stink a little bit, I was ready to go back and reconnect with everyone.
Now that freshman year is in the history books, I am ready for the challenges and joys of sophomore year. While some of my friends will leave because they are seniors, I will be able to look back with great fondness of the memories that they made with me, and I with them. I feel as if freshman year, while it went by fast, provided me with the chance to explore and find that missing puzzle piece that helped me become one of mind, spirit, and body. The Jesuit values have helped me become me, and I wish I could re-experience my freshman year.
David Hummel ’20 is a History major with Euro-Asian interests. He is involved with Campus Ministry and the Kinney Center for Autism Education and Support.