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Following her passion

Emma Collins is our new Family Service Coordinator, but she’s not new to improving the lives of others

Emma Collins knew from a young age that she wanted to serve those living with disabilities, and now she’s fully engaged in a career that is also her passion.

Emma is the Frank Olean Center’s new Family Services Coordinator, working with Children’s Program Director Jason Lanzillo. She graduated in May – Summa Cum Laude – with a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Southern New Hampshire University.

“I’ve always had a passion for special education and people with disabilities,” Emma said, explaining why she chose to work at the Center.

As a Girl Scout, she earned her Gold Award, the highest honor, by establishing a peer mentorship program at Chariho Regional High School through which special education students were paired with general education students.

“I wanted to close that gap between the two – I wanted to make school more of a unified community and not so sectioned,” she said. Her Bronze and Silver Awards also focused on services for the disabled.

Emma’s dedication to individuals born with disabilities was apparently clear to others as well. A friend of her family asked Emma if she would consider serving as a Direct Care Worker in their home while she was a student at the Community College of Rhode Island. That was her initial contact with the Olean Center and she eventually added three other families, all through the Center.

Asked where her passion might stem from Emma explained that her parents have always been sensitive to people with disabilities. Emma also has a cousin in California who was born with cerebral palsy, and while they don’t see other much, the concept of people living with disabilities was familiar to her from a young age.

Now, as a young adult, Emma finds herself empowered to connect families like her cousin’s and those she helped as a Girl Scout to the vital services available to them. And she plans to learn all she can to help our developmentally disabled friends and family members attain whatever goals they set. She may even find new ways to make that happen as she pursues a passion that also happens to be a career.

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