When Pablo Sasso ’14 discusses his work with the staff of the Kennedy-Willis Center on Down Syndrome and the residents of Pathfinder Village, his enthusiasm for and commitment to his Field School Fellowship is undeniable. Pathfinder Village, which is located in the rolling hills of West Edmeston, provides residential and educational opportunities for those five or older living with Down Syndrome. The model Pathfinder utilizes is one that recognizes and encourages residents and participants to live independent, autonomous, and fulfilling lives. According to Pablo, “the Village gives the residents individuality and a lot of freedom that is not seen in other institutions” due to its individual service plan (ISP) model. This model enables residents to design their own life goals and plan. The Kennedy-Willis Center on Down Syndrome is located directly next to Pathfinder and is devoted to conducting and releasing research on down syndrome and to organizing relevant conferences, internships, workshops, and events.
Pablo is working on three projects on behalf of Pathfinder Village and the Kennedy-Willis Center. He is laying the groundwork for a running and exercise club for the residents, which he hopes will allow the participants to “gain a higher level of fitness as a result of running and a sense of camaraderie.” It will also allow Pablo to deepen his relationships with residents, which are already growing through shared dinners every evening. In addition, he is working with researchers from Utica College who are interviewing staff, leaders, residents, and the residents’ families about their perceptions of Pathfinder. This study aims to empirically demonstrate the impact of Pathfinder’s model and services on its residents. Finally, Pablo is working with his supervisor to host a group of researchers from the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia who are collecting information to update growth charts for children who have Down Syndrome.
Pablo is a Classical Studies and Psychology Major and has worked with Special Olympics twice in the past. While he has never worked exclusively for an organization that provides support to those with disabilities, he is already feeling right at home with the people and the issues being addressed. Through his fellowship, he hopes to make “a real effort in helping the lives of individuals with Down Syndrome,” as well as to facilitate research studies aiming to improve people’s quality of life. Every day brings new challenges, people, tasks, and discoveries as Pablo continues to become immersed in “a vibrant social community.” He feels that participating as an Upstate Institute Field School Fellow has given him an opportunity that he would not have had access to otherwise and is excited about becoming involved in future philanthropic work.