"Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid," said Albert Einstein. Abby's passions lie in working with individuals that society tends to underestimate. She believes strongly in the power of building relationships and working to truly understand, to the extent possible, another's story. Growing up attending Catholic elementary and high schools in Cincinnati, Abby was constantly in environments that valued service. During junior high and high school, Abby, while babysitting, became close with a neighbor who has autism. She had the opportunity to see his many talents and interests, as well as the areas in which he had difficulties. Her relationship with him inspired her to begin volunteering at a local organization called Stepping Stones that serves individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. She ended up working at Stepping Stones's summer day camp and respite programs for four years. Her last year, she worked most closely with those children and young adults who had more severe behavioral challenges. At Stepping Stones, Abby learned the value of positive culture - seeing others first and foremost for their strengths and successes rather than seeing them for their most difficult moments. Difficult days and the disadvantages an individual feels in our current society are important to learn, but they are not all that a person is.
Through her service at Vanderbilt, Abby has had the opportunity to continue to work with individuals with disabilities and those whose environment puts them at greater risk for academic and behavioral difficulties.
During her freshman year at Vanderbilt, Abby served in a variety of organizations as she got to know Nashville. Most notably, Abby began volunteering with Next Steps at Vanderbilt, a post-secondary education program for young adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. She quickly became good friends with students in the program, and her mentoring times with them became one of her favorite parts of her week. She has gotten to make many more friends through the Next Steps program and looks forward to continuing to work with it as it grows in the coming year.
Abby also serves at Saddle Up! therapeutic riding center, Martha O'Bryan Center's Early Learning Center, and the Oasis Center's emergency youth shelter. In each of these places, incredible young people who continue to learn and share their awesome personalities, despite the disadvantages doubts with which society presents them, have inspired Abby.
This past summer, Abby completed her summer project with the Behavior Analysis Clinic (BAC) at the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center. The BAC works with children and young adults with severe challenging behavior and their families. Abby's project involved creating a text messaging system to improve the clinic's communication with families throughout treatment. This experience, along with many of her service experiences, formed her aspiration to attend graduate school for special education and applied behavior analysis.
Abby is so thankful to be a part of the Ingram Scholarship Program. Her fellow Scholars and the Ingram advisors have been an indispensable part of her experience at Vanderbilt. She appreciates how the program has challenged her to learn more deeply about her passions and follow them fully. She is looking forward to another year in the Ingram Scholarship Program, but is sad that it will be her last!