Today: Jun 18, 2024

Outreach Unlimited spreading disability awareness on campus


Steven Taliaferro

Staff Writer

Ashley Carver said being a co-president of Outreach Unlimited is not a difficult job.

“I love it,” she said, “because I get to help plan the events and fun things for everybody else to take part in.”

Carver is a junior psychology and education major and has been working as one of the co-presidents of Outreach Unlimited for the past semester.

“As being one of the co-presidents you get to help out,” said Carver. “It can be stressful but our e-board is working together, they help out a lot, it’s not as stressful as it used to be.”

Outreach Unlimited is a social group at Southern for students with disabilities. It was started by a group of students who felt strongly about spreading disability awareness throughout Southern’s campus.

The club also organizes group events such as movie nights, game nights, a Thanksgiving dinner, bake sales and a holiday gift exchange.

Carver said she joined Outreach in 2008 and has loved it ever since.

“It’s a lot of fun,” said Carver, “and I honestly love it because I’m on the e-board.”

Carver said her disability is spina bifida, a birth defect that involves incomplete structure of the spinal cord.

Carver said she and Heather Wilson, the president, plan the group’s events, including an upcoming concert
featuring singer-songwriter, Blessing Offor.

“ProCon is helping us to co-sponsor it,” she said, “and that’s going to be in March, so that’s like a really big event for us.”

Awareness, members, involvement – Carver said she hopes the concert will bring this to the minds of
Southern students.

“I think it’s going to be great publicity for our club,” she said, “because it’s been quite a few years since we’ve had someone big and major and we’ve done a big event. And it’s going to be big because it will be in the ballroom in the Student Center, that always attracts a lot of people, and it’s during Diversity Week.”

Carver said she likes the club’s acceptance among its members.

“I like how we all have one thing in common, where we all have a disability but we don’t necessarily focus on that. We try to raise awareness no matter whether it’s a physical disability, a hearing impairment, a learning disability, we all just get together and it’s nice that we all have something in common.”

Amy Berish, a freshman with a major in library science, is another member of Outreach. She said likes the
club and its members.

“I think it’s really nice for people to come where other people with disabilities help out, it’s really great,” said Berish.

Berish said she and her mother both have hereditary spastic paraplegia, a disability that affects a person’s hip muscles and, in some cases, can cause mental retardation and hinder the person’s hearing and seeing.

Berish was asked to come to an Outreach meeting by the club’s faculty advisor, Deborah Fairchild, and now enjoys everything the club offers to its members, she said.

“I think it’s fun, I like all the people and I like what we do,” said Berish. “I like the stuff that we’ve done, I like hearing about the stuff we’re going to do for the future and I might get involved in.”

Berish said she feels more close to home being with other disabled people.

“It feels like a community because everyone can really be open about it,” said Berish. “You can be open about the disability you have and not have anything to be ashamed of because everyone else has a disability.”

Mark Lofaro, a communication major with a focus in video production, joined Outreach in his freshman year
after being advised by Fairchild and Southern’s Disability Resource Center to be more involved in Southern’s social clubs, he said.

Lofaro said his disability is a heart condition known as vasovagal syncope, a condition where the heart rate plummets at random moments causing him to faint.

Lofaro said Outreach was not as popular as it is now when he first joined.

“In the beginning, we (Outreach) weren’t really well known but we’re starting to grow,” said Lofaro, “we’re
starting to do more things and be recognized for these things.”

Lofaro said he is now comfortable and likes an aspect of the group: the approachability.

“Everyone around you has a disability and has something going on that really levels the playing field for
everyone,” said Lofaro. “Everyone’s going through the same stuff, we all know what we have to do during the day so everyone in here is more approachable and I think available for you if you need advice or if you need someone to go to. It’s a lot more compatible that way.”

Fairchild said she was brought on by the students who originally started the group.

“The students that wanted to put Outreach together were students that I had worked with from the Disability Resource Center and they asked if I would be the faculty advisor,” said Fairchild.

“They started it and they had friends who were not disabled who were also part of it and the club slowly grew over time.”

Fairchild said she loves many aspects of the group.

“I love the spirit of the students, I love the kindness they demonstrate to each other as well as their
commitment to doing things for other people on campus,” said Fairchild.

“They get involved in mentoring programs, they speak on panels, their energy level is awesome.”

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