“I feel that at this point in life I couldn’t have more experience in the autism field than I do right now.” — Katrina Nicolaides ’17
“In my experience at the Kinney Center I have learned that no two children or adults with a disability are alike.” — Allison Samson ’17
Katrina Nicolaides ’17 of Glen Mills, Pennsylvania, an elementary education major, and Allison Samson ’17, from Sandy Hook, Connecticut, who is also an elementary education major, are two of 47 undergraduate SCHOLARS (Students Committed to Helping Others Learn about Autism Research and Support) from the Kinney Center for Autism Education and Support who will graduate May 20. This group is the largest class of SCHOLARS to graduate since the Kinney Center’s founding in 2009.
“Many of these students have been with us since they were first year students,” says Ryan Hammond, ’13 (MBA), executive director of the Kinney Center. “They will have amassed 2,000 hours of training and one-on-one interactions with individuals with autism by the time they graduate.”
Kinney SCHOLARS — who often choose to major in autism studies, psychology, or elementary and special education — assist with the center’s youth, adult and transitional programs for individuals with autism. This practical experience, coupled with their degrees, gives SCHOLARS a competitive edge over other job and graduate school applicants. Kinney SCHOLARS, who are Crisis Prevention Intervention certified, graduate with knowledge of current industry standards and applied behavior analysis, criminal and medical clearances, and CPR and first aid training.
“All of this experience, coupled with the training and hands-on work, make our SCHOLARS the ideal candidates for schools and service providers in the autism field,” Hammond says.
Many SCHOLARS in the Class of 2017 have already leveraged their time at the Kinney Center to find full-time positions in schools, special education programs or service agencies. Nicolaides will be working as an instructional assistant at A Step Up Academy, a special education school in Jenkintown, Pennsylvania.
Other SCHOLARS will go on to graduate programs in special education, and some will combine graduate school with practical work experience.Samson has accepted a teacher-scholar position with Melmark, a special education and service center in Berwyn, Pennsylvania. She will simultaneously extend her education at SJU by one year to complete a master’s degree in special education.