VOICE Day 2010 was opened to the public for the first time this year. A wide variety of individuals ranging from Hofstra students, to individuals with all disabilities, parents, professionals and exhibitors attended. This event took place on October 2, and provided an opportunity for everyone to come together and observe the importance of diversity. A count of 60 different agencies volunteered their time to support this event, and a total of 170 exhibitors and volunteers had previously committed. A few options that were available for attendees to explore ranged from an assortment of workshops, to disability history displays, and a film festival.
VOICE Day 2010 would not have had its large turnout without the help of Hofstra University Assistant Professor of Rehabilitation Studies Dr. Andrea Perkins, who took over the reins of the event as Chairperson in March. Perkins has been teaching at Hofstra for five years, and immediately became interested in running the event due to her profound interest of disability advocacy and activism. Planning for the event started as early as May and several meetings were coordinated over the summer to ensure that this event would turn out to be the best it could possibly be. “Hofstra has a very rich tradition in Disability History. Individuals, who were responsible for starting a lot of the major organizations for people with disabilities, include Dr. Frank Bowe, and Paul Hearne whom are graduates of Hofstra. Back in the 60’s, Hofstra was one of the only accessible campuses for people with disabilities in the country,” said Perkins. Her goals for making this event happen was to ideally create a standing group that would be able to come together and traditionally make this event happen for years to come.
“I was so thankful to have a great board ranging from 12 to 15 campus and community partners to help me plan and coordinate this event. The event was free for everyone. For the $2,000.00 budget we had, everyone really pitched in to make the event a positive one,” said Perkins. “The career center provided food and Hofstra student groups came together to help wherever they could.” Perkins wanted to expand the event more to help individuals learn about different programs available for people with disabilities, such as recreational groups geared towards all disabilities, and even services representing seniors.
Overall the event was geared towards being a celebration of helping individuals meet their potential. “I have been running events like this since I was in college. I attended Springfield College, which was responsible for first starting the YMCA it is very big on community involvement so dedicating my time to supporting others is just instilled in me,” said Perkins. “I think I’ve been doing this since I was about 18 and I truly enjoy event planning. I was in awe of the role models that Hofstra has provided Dr. Frank Bowe, Don Dryer, Robert Mauro, and Paul Hearne. If I can hold myself up to be half of what they were I would feel grateful.”Perkins was glad to have a lot of her students involved in this day as it was an opportunity for them to learn about Hofstra’s history, and all of the services available in the community.
Julie A. Yindra, Director of Services for Students with Disabilities, was glad to have Perkins lead the event this year stating: “Andrea was the center of the universe when it came to Voice Day.”Yindra went on to explain that in previous years rehab counseling coordinated a small scale film festival around disability awareness. Last spring Yindra was approached to become part of the board and was responsible of coordinating three specific aspects of the day. First being the transition room, where a series of schools and agencies came together to present disability and transition from childhood to adulthood. A number of agencies related to disability in transition present in the room talked about the kind of things students with disabilities need to be prepared for before transitioning to a career or higher education. There were a series of workshops that Yindra put together. The first panel discussion was based on college success. Yindra selected one recent Hofstra graduate, two current Hofstra students and a parent of a Hofstra student to discuss key readiness skills, attitudes and abilities that allowed these students to get to college and to be successful.
Richard Cavallaro, a junior at Hofstra University attended this event. “I was glad to be a part of Hofstra’s special day dedicated to students with disabilities. It was a great opportunity for people to be able to recognize that we are the same as everyone else. We are capable of achieving success and doing great things on the same level as any other student here at Hofstra,” said Cavallaro. “I feel Hofstra welcomed me on this campus and made my transition to college go smoothly, and for this I am thankful.”
The second and final panel discussion was based on topics related to Autism Spectrum Disorders and Aspergers Syndrome. This discussion covered the specific challenges students with that kind of disability undergo when they leave home to go to college or out into the work place. “They are a very unique group of people,” said Yindra. Present for this panel discussion were one graduate student at Hofstra, a parent of a Hofstra student who focused on the autism spectrum, and a professional whose job is to work with students with that type of disability.
“I think it was important to have this event at Hofstra particularly now after we just celebrated our 75th anniversary. We have a very long history of disability advocacy so I think as we reflect on our history it is important to recognize the roll we have played in disability services,” said Yindra. “Lastly, we have to celebrate one of our key populations in terms of celebrating diversity. On this campus there are a large number of students with disabilities. It is highly important to recognize the role these students play in ideally shaping who we are as a university.”