Students in AIM Program travel to D.C.

Hailey Steidle, Staff writer

From March 8-11 students in the Autism Initiative at Mercyhurst (AIM) took a trip to Washington D.C. as part of the program’s career path training.

The students were led by the AIM Director Amanda Mulder, and Vice President for Advancement Sam McCrimmon as they explored the nation’s capital and gained key insights into the world of government and business organizations.

A major trip highlight was the opportunity that students had to meet with Congressman Mike Kelly and hear about advocacy and employment within the government.

AIM was started in 2008 in order to support a section of students that otherwise may have had a much harder time transitioning into their life in college through a multitude of ways.

Its main goal since its creation is to help these students gain a college education and experience while also learning the life skills that will help them pre- pare for life after college which includes their future careers.

The trip to D.C. was taken as a way to help students partake in the AIM programs career path program, which helps students gain the vocational re- source that will hopefully help them have successful careers.

These resources can include a range of things such as job shadowing, help gaining internship opportunities and vocational opportunities, access to career-specific resources, vocational skill development and access to resources that specialize in employing individuals on the autism spectrum.

During their trip, students were able to speak with Congressman Mike Kelly, who is the Republican Congressman for Pennsylvania.

He took time to speak to these students about both advocacy and employment within the government, which piqued the interest of many of the students in attendance of the talks.

Along with allowing students to meet and speak to a congressman, this trip also allowed them to be able to partake in a series of other talks and tours of both government and business organizations.

They spent the rest of their trip touring the National Institute of Health, PricewaterhouseCoopers and the Office of Autism Research (OAR) along with taking some time to explore our nation’s capital.

AIM uses experiences like this trip to Washington, D.C. as a way to encourage neurodiverse students to step out of what may be their comfort zones and explore a multitude of possible career paths.

Along with the trip to Washington, D.C., the program has also previously embarked on multiple other experiential and vocational travels with students who are in the program.

In 2013, 2015, 2021 and 2022 the AIM program took part in Conquer the Canyon where students took trips to Arizona and the Grand Canyon and in 2015 and 2017, they participated in Raise the Roof where students took trips to Tanzania, Africa.

These series of trips were used to broaden students’ awareness of the world around them, their inner self and experience things they possibly never experience otherwise.

This trip was one of just many steps that the program is taking to raise the opportunities that students have in the future.