CREATE seeks summer staff for 2019 program

Gillian Mazur, Staff writer

A nationally acclaimed program that many may not know about takes place right here at Mercyhurst each summer.
The Autism Initiative at Mercyhurst (AIM) was born out of the CREATE Summer Program which piloted in 2009 with seven students. CREATE stands for College Readiness Experience for Autism Teaching Excellence. A truly unique experience for those on the autism spectrum, the three-week program helps assess and prepare those on the spectrum for college readiness.

Participants ages range from high school to adults up to 24 years old and allows those with mental disabilities to determine with their families if they are ready for the challenging demands of higher education.

The CREATE Program is currently seeking Mercyhurst students to be staff facilitators at the program during July of this summer in exchange for both a stipend and a memorable three weeks.
Students enrolled in the program get to experience the true college lifestyle first hand, with meals in a college cafeteria, dorm room living and enrollment in three-credit college courses.

A course series titled College 101 is a curriculum developed specially for the program but can apply universally to nearly every institution. In College 101, students are exposed to different faculty and staff from various departments and offices. Each explains who they are, what they do and how to reach them if they ever need assistance.

Through participation in a Mini Lecture Series, students are exposed to different faculty and lecture styles. The broad range of topics intrigue a variety of interests and expose students to different fields of academic study with credits that can transfer to numerous schools.

“Favorite course subjects often include Geology, Theater, Forensics and Graphic Design,” Tessie Staaf, Office Manager of the AIM program, said.

The program has been so successful that students have come from all over the world just to participate. In the past, participants have traveled from Florida and Arizona, and even as far away as China.

Students and staff in the CREATE Program take part in local excursions, including a trip to Niagara Falls, every year where they get to actively exercise their newly learned social skills in a diverse setting. In a new and unfamiliar eclectic environment, students are given slips of paper which contain different social tasks they have to accomplish.

Brad McGarry, Director of AIM as well as the CREATE Program has many good things to say about its effect.
“It really is a neat experience. It’s amazing to see how far the kids are able to come and develop within three short weeks.”

The program for summer of 2019 runs from July 6 to July 27 and the AIM committee is currently looking for students to work as Junior Staff. As daily workers, each Junior Staff member is assigned three to five students to help peer mentor and assist in the administrative operation of their residential area. Students serve as a role model to the CREATE participants and eat and live for free on campus for the duration of the program.

The program runs for approximately 25 days with two additional days of training and usually works well for students participating in other Erie or Mercyhurst internships.
Mitchell Marsh, a junior Marketing and Hospitality Management Major, worked as a Junior Staff member this past summer.

“It was a really fun experience throughout the entire month of July and you get to know the students as well as make many new connections and friends on campus,” Marsh said.
Not only do junior staff members receive the $850 stipend, participation with one of the top college readiness experience programs in the country is also a great resume builder.

“Students majoring in Psychology, Sociology and Special Education are usually identified and seek out the positions as an experiential resume builder, but students of all majors are welcome to apply. Those in Residence Life and those who have siblings with mental disabilities are also common applicants,” McGarry said.

To apply, contact either Bradley McGarry or Tessie Staaf for an application and interview for the position. Carpe diem to a new summer opportunity!