RSCO Feature: Aim for Friends

Vydalia Weatherly, Staff writer

For this RSCO feature, the Merciad would like to highlight Aim for Friends, a new RSCO on campus that was approved in November. Laurie Baker, student support coordinator for the Autism Initiative at Mercyhurst (AIM) and advisor for Aim for Friends, explains that “the purpose of AIM for Friends (AFF) is to create a campus-wide community of acceptance and inclusivity for neurodiverse students. We shall promote these ideals through social events, flagging, and awareness campaigns. We want to create safe spaces for both students that are neurotypical and students that are neurodiverse to socialize together. We will use flagging to create safe spaces at events around campus and we will join with the Autism Initiative at Mercyhurst (AIM) for AIM-sponsored events. We will also collaborate with other RSCOs in promoting Autism Awareness Campaigns.”The RSCO has not been active for long, but it is already having positive impacts on students. Alexandra Kruse, a sophomore Early Childhood/Special Education major with a minor in Social Justice, currently serves as the president for Aim for Friends. “My favorite moments of Aim for Friends so far have been how quickly the members have bonded at the few meetings we have had. It truly shows how loving and accepting our community should be,” says Kruse. Aim for Friends welcomes all students to become members who will promote their goal of inclusivity. Students should join AFF if they wish “to expand your friend circle to include neurodiverse students as well as any student who may need some assistance engaging with new people. To be a part of creating a campus atmosphere of inclusivity—clearly designating safe approachable groups of students to engage with,” says Baker. AFF wishes to create an environment on campus in which all students feel accepted. “Although this group was created with AIM students specifically in mind, we have recognized that there is a great deal of students who have difficulty engaging socially—whether they are on the Autism spectrum or not. The goal of this group is to lessen the anxiety associated with social situations and create safety for students to be accepted exactly the way they are,” Baker notes. Despite Aim for Friends being active for only a few weeks, the RSCO has many plans for the rest of the academic year. “For the future, we are planning to pass out these pins at our general meeting at the beginning of the spring semester. We also hope to have enough members attend campus events wearing our pins to create these safe spaces for AIM students. Some AFF run events are still in the making, and we would love to have new members join and share their ideas with us!” says Kruse. AFF has been coordinating with the AIM program and will continue to do so in the future. “Currently, some of the students in this group are gathering for lunches on Mondays and Thursdays. There are recreation activities on Tuesday afternoons. Students from this group are also cooking dinner together on Thursday evenings. In addition, we want to create a large pool of students who are interested in meeting and working with others who may have some difficulty engaging socially. In the spring of 2023, AIM will start a social skills mentoring program using this group as a base. We are also planning to utilize club members to assist with the CREATE Summer Program as well,” says Baker. Aim for Friends currently meets once or twice a month on Mondays on the second floor of the Student Union, but are currently in the process of finding a new location. Students can go on Laker Launchpad to see when meetings are taking place. If you are interested in joining Aim for Friends or have any questions about the RSCO, you can reach out to Alexandra Kruse or Laurie Baker for more information.