GCU grant helps put disabled children on pathway to learning


To the delight of those affiliated with the Trudeau Center, a non-profit organization that aims to promote an enhanced quality of life for individuals with developmental disabilities, the Greenwood Credit Union made a $45,000 five-year pledge to the Center and presented a check to them last week.

According to Ed Egan, Trudeau’s developmental director, the Center plans to use the money to enhance the Pathways Strategic Center, a facility that promotes a program that focuses on children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorders, located at 75 Centre of New England Boulevard in Coventry.

A grand opening will be celebrated May 17.

“It was identified by our Board of Directors as our number one project,” said Egan. “In light of a difficult economy, we still felt the need to provide the school, the services and the space.”

Egan also said the plan for Pathways projected that the school would be at capacity of 60 within five years. But, within five months, they already are close to that number at 58.

“It’s a reflection of how great the need is,” he said.

Formerly located on Post Road, the new center has six classrooms with computer technology, such as smart boards, iPads and blue tooth capabilities.

It also is equipped with a large all-purpose recreation room, two handicap assessable playgrounds and an additional parking lot adjacent to the building.

The parking lot, said Egan, is a big plus. In fact, he said it is the major reason they decided to purchase the building, which they acquired in December of 2010.

“Trudeau searched for four years before landing on this space,” he said. “With 21 school districts busing children here, the parking lot enables a very safe drop-off of students.”

Of the 21 school districts, 17 are located in Rhode Island, with four in nearby Massachusetts. In terms of students to teachers, Pathways is at a one-to-one ratio.

Further, they have a behavior analysis, occupational and physical therapist, on-site nurse, as well as speech and language technology services.

Amy Barclay, a parent of Pathway student Caleb, 16, attended the brief ceremony that took place at the Credit Union. She said her son has been a student there for more than six years and is thrilled with the donation.

“They have given him an incredible opportunity and his progress has been phenomenal,” said Barclay.

The Trudeau Center founded the Pathways Strategic Teaching Center in 1998. There, the teaching method is Applied Behavior Analysis, or ABA, the most scientifically supported and demonstrated effective method for working with children with autism.

Through ABA, teachers and analysts look at an individual student’s abilities, strengths and areas of need, as well as how they can best learn. They assess and treat problem behaviors and work with students on building skills.

On Friday, students from Salve Regina University visited the Center as part of a research program they are doing on how to teach joint attention skills, which are interactions such as eye-gazing, finger-pointing or other verbal or non-verbal indications.

College students Samantha DeMartin, 19, Maria Garcia, 22, and Kiley Lariviere, 20, visit the center from 10 to 15 hours per week during the school year and up to 35 hours in the summer. They said it’s a blessing to be involved in the program, which began three years ago.

“I’ve decided that this is what I want to do for the rest of my life just by coming here,” said DeMartin, a sophomore from Long Island, N.Y. double majoring in Psychology and Criminal Justice. She said she’s been in the program for more than a year. “I do home-based therapy because of it and spend all day with these kids. I want to continue working with developmentally disabled children.”

Garcia, a senior who hails from Mexico and is majoring in Psychology with a minor in Neuroscience, has been involved for two years. She, too, enjoys the program.

“We get to apply everything we learn in class here,” she said. “We’re able to have a hands-on opportunity.”

Sophomore Lariviere, of New Bedford, who is studying Psychology and Religious Studies, agrees.

“It’s a remarkable experience,” she said.

Mary Madden, the executive director of Trudeau, is pleased Pathways is flourishing. She is also happy of the contribution, especially since recent state cuts to centers for people with developmental disabilities.

“We’ve always have had a strong relationship with Greenwood Credit Union and we feel like they’ve been partners and supporters of ours for a very long time, but this is an extraordinary gift and it couldn’t come at a better time for us,” said Madden. “With all the struggles we’ve had, particularly in 2011, we’re starting the New Year on an up note and this is extremely helpful.”

Dr. Andrea Chait, director of Pathways, shared her sentiments.

“It will have a major impact on our program, and ultimately, our students,” she said. “We couldn’t be any more excited and we’re very thankful.”

Senator William Walaska, chairman of the Greenwood Credit Union Board who also serves on the Board for the Trudeau Center, said the Greenwood Board fully understands and supports the mission of the Trudeau Center.

“The state has cut back funding and it’s difficult for non-profits to get donations today,” said Walaska. “Greenwood Credit Union is pleased to contribute and we want to continue our relationship with Trudeau.”

Thomas F. Ahern, the vice chair of the Greenwood Credit Union Board, as well as a Trudeau Board member, feels the same.

“You can’t give enough in relation to the cause,” he said.

Jim Irving, CEO and president of Greenwood Credit Union, was at the check event, as well. He echoed their feelings.

“We are very happy to be able to help them in a very difficult economic time,” he said.


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