Erica Golin, a Pyschology major in the Verrazano Class of 2015, has been working with Project REACH on campus this semester as part of an independent study course. Read below for more about her experience, in her own words.
Hi! My name is Erica Golin and I’m a Verrazano sophomore studying psychology. I have had a very enriching experience this semester doing an independent study. My work is with Project REACH, a program at the College of Staten Island that provides mentorship to students who are on the autism spectrum or have other disabilities. This program is affiliated with the Center for Student Accessibility, which is an office on campus that provides services to students with disabilities.
I mentor three CSI students a week who are autistic or have another diagnosis. Autism is spectrum disorder, which means that it can range from very mild to very severe, and it is typically characterized by difficulty in social situations, impairment in communication, and a restricted pattern of behavior and interests. When I meet with my students, we discuss goals for the semester and how to reach those goals, such as getting better grades and increasing social skills. What I have learned so far from this opportunity is that autism is considered an “invisible disability,” meaning that you cannot just look at a person and tell they have it. People with invisible disabilities are often misunderstood because not everyone understands the implications of the disorders. Another part of my independent study is using Microsoft Excel to track data, which has taught me that data entry and paperwork are essential parts of psychology because information needs to be accounted for and analyzed in order to improve the human condition.
I feel honored to be a mentor, and I know that I am making a difference in the lives of my mentees. It is amazing how kind-hearted and determined people with disabilities are, and as a psychology student, I strive to better understand all people. I plan on continuing my work with Project REACH for the rest of my college career.