Salve Service Advocates partner remotely with disabled adults through Learning Unlimited
At Salve Regina, promoting inclusivity is so important to its Mercy mission, and Learning Unlimited is an educational program that offers Salve Regina students the opportunity to partner and learn from adults who have developmental disabilities in a supportive, joyful environment.
Learning Unlimited explained through words student volunteers
Learning Unlimited is fun, life-changing and paradigm-shifting opportunity. This inclusive learning community at Salve Regina promotes a welcoming and accessible environment for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and it creates opportunities for undergraduate students and people with disabilities to learn from each other through education, recreation and socialization.
The class meets every Thursday night during the semester from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. The adult clients are members of both the local community and of Looking Upwards, which is a nonprofit organization in Middletown committed to the “growth and independence of children and adults of all abilities so they may realize their potential and live fulfilling lives.”
“This program is extremely important to Salve,” described Jillian Gaffga ’23, who is a service advocate and is majoring in accounting with a minor in business administration and marketing. “It is a unique community partner because it happens on Salve’s campus each week. It is a way for Salve students to connect with their outside community and … the community members come to love Salve as much as the college students.”
Saarah Papineau ’23, service advocate and global business and economics major, has helped develop a curriculum for Learning Unlimited. This includes creating and facilitating activities that are fun and engaging for everyone like games, activities, lessons and discussion questions. She has also helped with logistical aspects of the organization, like creating Excel spreadsheets and assisting with managing Zoom calls.
“Learning Unlimited is important in promoting inclusivity and inclusion,” Papineau. “It enables Salve students and community members to create meaningful relationships and expand their view of the world.”
Serving disabled adults during remote learning
Even during the coronavirus pandemic, Salve Regina’s service advocates are flexible and reliable, continuing their service from home. With Learning Unlimited, this is especially true, as the relationship between the students and community members is a truly caring bond.
One of the remote events that has happened for Learning Unlimited was a Virtual Paint Night hosted by Mermaid Masterpieces, a local Newport business, and led through Zoom. Both Salve Regina students and community members in the program were encouraged to participate.
The Center for Community Engagement and Service team and the staff at Looking Upwards helped to create bags for the members. Inside these bags were the necessary paint supplies, individualized name tags, gift bags and Salve Regina t-shirts. The name tags ensured that each recipient received a correctly sized shirt and made the gift more personal.
The community members were grateful to receive the bags and have the chance to participate. Many wore their Salve Regina shirts to the paint night itself. While the event was supposed to run on campus, this was a wonderfully attended event that helped keep the momentum of Learning Unlimited going despite not being in the same space.
“The program is more important now than ever, especially to me, as community members and Salve students are isolated to their homes,” said Gaffga. “It remains an important way for community members and Salve students to connect to one another and the University. I am so excited to have another three years at Salve and with Learning Unlimited.”
Each Monday, SALVEtoday will provide a service update for the University community on what faculty, staff and students are doing to help out others during this time of remote living and learning. #salvesgotthis #mercymondays