By Jennifer Kolarik
Lead Career Coordinator, CIP Brevard
All of the College Internship Program (CIP) centers kicked off Autism Awareness Month in April by decorating their offices and student lounges with blue lights, balloons, streamers, and banners… anything to support the Autism Speaks’ “Light It Up Blue” movement. Students at CIP Long Beach even created posters, banners and flyers to help inspire their fellow students.
To reach out to the community, a number of CIP centers provided workshops with tips for students on the autism spectrum to transition from high school to college and careers. At CIP Amherst, Christina Cacioppo Bertsch, MA presented followed by a CIP student panel to answer attendees’ questions. CIP Bloomington students volunteered their time at a local Transition and Community Resource Fair. CIP Brevard students and staff presented at Melbourne Central Catholic (MCC) high school in Melbourne, FL while CIP Berkeley students presented at El Cerrito High School in El Cerrito, CA.
Moultrie Woodall was one of the CIP Brevard staff who presented at the MCC workshop. He was a student at the Bervard Center for 3 years before joining the CIP team as a staff member. Moultrie is now tutoring CIP students as well as teaching a morning class where he helps students reframe their thoughts and set a positive tone for the rest of their day. Based on his own experiences, Moultrie encouraged the students to approach life with cognitive flexibility. He stated “You never know where you will end up. Most people do not have the same career that they imagined they would when they were in high school. So being flexible keeps you open to new opportunities and possibilities.” He also spoke about the misconceptions regarding failure and success. “Failure is not something to be afraid of. Rather than focusing solely on our successes, we should learn to fail better… that is, to take each life experience as a learning opportunity!.”
Students and staff at the centers also wore blue CIP t-shirts while volunteering for great causes throughout the month of April including: Chalk Art Festival by Autism Highway; Summit Autism Awareness Walk; Alameda County Community Food Bank; Melbourne Art Festival; Cycle Jam for the Kids; RCA Community Park clean-up; and Pet Connections indoor yard sale. In total, students at the 6 CIP centers throughout the United States volunteer thousands of hours each year. They are looking forward to next year’s Autism Awareness Month so they can once again “light it up blue.”