I have been fortunate enough this summer to work as a Fellow with Pathfinder Village, located in Edmeston, NY. Pathfinder Village is a residential community of individuals with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities and is beautifully designed to have the feel of a historic New England town. The grounds and buildings are perfectly maintained, and convey a sense of peace and belonging. The homes, chapel, and offices all center around two large greens, which residents often walk around, listening to music, chatting with others, and enjoying the sunshine. As is part of their mission, Pathfinder strives to improve quality of life for the intellectual and/or developmental disability community, so “…that each life may find meaning.”
Life at Pathfinder Village is full of opportunities. Pathfinder offers a variety of different programs for members of the intellectual and/or developmental disability community, including a school, the Otsego Academy, and Adult Day Services. Each Thursday, residents help to set up a produce market in the Village, where members of the community surrounding Pathfinder can come for fresh produce. Additionally, the Village proudly supports both a bakery and an inn, which create further opportunities for the community surrounding Pathfinder to become involved with what is happening in the Village. The service held every Sunday in the chapel is a very popular meeting place for many residents, and the annual Pathfinder Village Formal Prom is always a huge success.
Though Pathfinder offers a lot to residents, employment opportunities can be difficult for their residents to find. In general, individuals with disabilities are employed at lower rates than the general population, and the rate for individuals with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities is even lower than that. In order to help address this problem, my work this summer will center around assessing barriers to employment for people with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities in Otsego County. Specifically, I will create and distribute a survey to employers in the area which will help assess engagement with the intellectual and/or developmental disability community, the amount of successful employment that has taken place so far, and barriers and benefits that employers perceive with regards to hiring employees with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities. The results of this survey will be novel information, as no survey of this kind has taken place in Otsego County before, and will also help inform education and outreach materials. However, an important aspect of this survey will not be from the results, but from the conversation it creates. Simply by distributing the survey, I hope that communication between employers and the intellectual and/or developmental disability community will become more open, and genuine strides towards improving employment opportunities for people with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities can be made.
Before this summer, I had never participated in either the Field School or any other community-based research, and it has been a wonderful experience so far. As a psychology and geography double major, much of what I study has to do with people, including individual attitudes and actions, as well as larger population trends. A valuable skill that I have acquired from working with the Field School this summer has been survey design and distribution. It is highly possible that at some point in the future I will be conducting research in which having the skills to create an objective, neutral, and informative survey will become vital, and I am very grateful to the Field School for having given me the opportunity to develop them. I believe that the Field School’s partnership with Pathfinder Village holds immense value for everyone who is involved. Not only have I, as a representative of Colgate, had the opportunity to develop and distribute this survey which will hopefully help Pathfinder in their goals, but also to learn an incredible amount from an organization that does wonderful work in the lives of those it touches. I am very happy to have had this experience and am excited to see what the rest of the summer has in store.