Student Reflection: Matt Phelan
Written By: Bubacarr Fofana '18
This semester nine St. Lawrence students participated in a CBL placement with NYSARC Fitness. NYSARC Fitness aims to motivate and build relationships with individuals with either intellectual or developmental disabilities while participating in physical exercise. Students engage by playing kickball, T-ball, and sometimes soccer. Like many other CBL placements, this group of students believe that NYSARC Fitness is a place where the students truly feel like they are “giving back to the community” by building strong relationships with the individuals they work with. One of the students this semester who has gone above and beyond to achieve the goal of the NYSARC Fitness program is Matthew Phelan.
Matthew is a senior, majoring in History with a minor in Education, here at St. Lawrence University. He volunteers at NYSARC as part of his independent studies, focusing on special education.
What stood out most about Matthew at placement is his willingness to make a difference in the NYSARC individuals’ day. He always takes the initiative at the placement to approach any NYSARC individual and engage with them in a conversation about their week. Matthew brings positive energy with him at every placement visit. Matthew expresses, “The NYSARC individuals are truly fun to be around. It seems that they get more and more comfortable with us every day, which brings out their personalities and sense of humor. Their ability to catch, kick, and throw keeps getting better and better. I enjoy seeing how they progress.”
Though the students and NYSARC individuals usually play a game of kickball, which keeps everyone running thus providing the exercise component of the placement, the students also engage with the NYSARC individuals on a personal level. Matthew noted, “interacting with these individuals on a conversational level is what gets their spirits up,” also expressing that, “taking the initial step and asking about their weekend and their life in general makes a big difference in getting them to feel comfortable around you.” Matthew said, “My experience here at NYSARC Fitness is helping make my last semester at St. Lawrence enjoyable and worthwhile. I look forward to every Monday and Wednesday, being able to play sports and build upon the relationships with the NYSARC individuals.”