Bridging Borders

Young Adult Program participantsIf you are walking through the Hicks Center or across the Quad on a sunny weekday afternoon, you may run into senior Rosie Tobin with groups of campus visitors. These visitors are not prospective students, and Tobin is not a tour guide—she is an ambassador, building bridges between K and the larger community.

Tobin’s guests are students in the Young Adult Program (YAP), a service for people aged 18 to 26 on the autism spectrum coordinated through the College’s Center for Civic Engagement. Tobin helps facilitate conversation and social interaction between YAP students and with members of the K community.

“The focus is really on relationship building between students, because people who are on the autism spectrum have, generally, a hard time with social interaction, social cues, and communication,” said Tobin.

The YAP students take two hours out of their week to come to campus and make these connections. The rest of the week, they spend in a classroom setting learning life skills, such as cooking, riding the bus, and managing money, according to Tobin.

While the benefits of the YAP students’ time on K’s campus are immeasurable for them, Tobin also highlighted the educational benefits for those who are not on the autism spectrum, as well.

“I think mental health is somewhat of a taboo topic. I think people don’t really know how to talk about it,” she said. “People don’t really know the right language to use or don’t really know how to interact with people who are different than them—people who look the same as them, but act differently.”

Serving those who face hardships is a passion of Tobin’s, which she attributes in large part to Professor of English Bruce Mills’ first year seminar “Crossing Borders: Autism and Other Ways of Knowing,” which introduced her to the topic.

It was then that she made the connection with YAP and developed a commitment that would lead her to be the programs’ Civic Engagement Scholar this past academic year.

“Everything I’ve done has increased my drive to work with people who don’t always receive the resources they need,” said Tobin.

Text by Matt Munoz ’14; Photo courtesy of Rosie Tobin