This post was written by Emily Rooney ’17
This summer I am working with Pathfinder Village, a planned residential community that supports people with Down syndrome and other developmental disabilities. The organization works to foster a community that empowers residents to be independent through programs like day services, the Pathfinder Village school, a post-secondary school (Otsego Academy), camps, etc. It was founded in 1980 and although the organization has expanded and evolved since then, it stays true to its core vision “that each life may find meaning.”
I am working in the Kennedy Willis Center, primarily on a survey of social roles and community engagement. The goal of the survey is to compare the social roles and daily life activities of adults with and without disabilities around Edmeston, New York (where the village is located). My supervisor and I are hoping that the survey will reflect that people living in Pathfinder Village have comparable life experiences, community engagement, and overall quality of life to people without disabilities living in Edmeston and the surrounding area.
On a typical day, I work to design survey questions, interview residents of the village, strategize in meetings, or recruit participants. But my days at Pathfinder have been anything but routine. I have only been working at Pathfinder for three weeks and I have already gotten many opportunities to experience the village outside of the Kennedy Willis Center. Because I am an Educational Studies major, my supervisor arranged for me to spend some time in the Pathfinder Village School. I sat in on each classroom and got the chance to meet some of the students. The level of care and individualization in the classroom was such a great thing to see. I also attended the graduation ceremony where the eight graduating students celebrated with their families, friends, and staff.
Perhaps my favorite thing to do at Pathfinder Village is go to the weekly produce market because it sells local and fresh fruits and vegetables to the community. It’s amazing how many people show up each week, especially considering the size of the town. It truly speaks to the way that Pathfinder is not just located in Edmeston, but it is a part of the fabric of the community.
I was drawn to become a Summer Field School Fellow because I wanted to get to know the region that I have been a visitor in for three years. I have heard many students at Colgate comment on the disconnect between the town of Hamilton (and Central New York more broadly) and the university. I think that one of the best ways that students can feel more connected to the area in which we study is to leave the Colgate bubble and to see the impact that community organizations and members of the community have on the area. For me, becoming an Upstate Fellow and my work with Pathfinder Village has started to do this. Working as a Field School Fellow has also been a great way to explore what a future working with non-profit and community based organizations would be like. I have learned a lot in my three weeks about work in a non-profit, but more importantly about how to create a warm, loving, welcoming, and supportive environment.