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On the Road To Independence

By Anthony Canestrare

Anthony Canestrare graduated from high school in June of 2014 and with the help of Advocates started his own self directed plan.   Using self-determination and having the ability to make choices about his life, has enabled him to begin a fully inclusive life in his community with the goal of living as independently as possible.



With the assistance of his support staff, this year Anthony started at Syracuse University where he is enrolled in the InclusiveU Program.  He took a First Aid course and will continue his studies that will enhance his knowledge and social skills.  He currently volunteers with Meals on Wheels where he delivers meals to individuals that are home bound, as well as at Camillus Ridge Terrace, a senior center, where he does various tasks such as cleans and sanitizes rooms and chats with the residents.  Anthony is looking into other opportunities which include volunteering at WCNY which he hopes to start in the near future.  He is currently a member of the West Genesee SEPTSA (Special Education Parent Teacher Student Association) where he is an advocate and participates in community events that benefit all students. 


For recreational activities, Anthony belongs to a fitness center where he lifts weights to strengthen his body, attends SU sports games, is in a bowling league, listens to gospel music and plays the piano.  Anthony is also a member of the Solvay Tyrol Club where he volunteers with his mentors at monthly events.   


Anthony is working on his skills to live independently by learning to take the Centro bus to SU and cook his meals at home.  He does his laundry, and not only helps clean his house, but also vacuums and cleans his grandfather's house.  He plans to continue to take more courses at SU that will assist in developing the life skills he needs to achieve his independence.

On a personal level, Anthony's parents describe him as "really a genuinely good person and is able to see the good in life and all people".  No matter what difficulties and/or complications he has experienced in his life so far, Anthony has overcome these obstacles with confidence and optimism.  "You truly believe there is nothing you can't do or try, and if you are not completely successful, you never waiver, and continue to search for what will bring you success..."  "We are truly grateful that Anthony has been afforded the opportunity to direct his own community-based supports.  Working with Advocates and the many dedicated people have provided Anthony exposure to community events, people and experiences he might not have otherwise been able to participate.   His self-determination plan has not only helped him to create a vision for his future, but most importantly, provides a way to achieve it."   (Roseanne Canastrare, Anthony's Mom)


I Graduated from Syracuse University

By Jamie Burke



My name is Jamie Burke and I am from Syracuse, New York. I am a senior at Syracuse University in the College of Human Ecology.  I am very interested in making communication a happy absolute in autism, simply holding the potential of everyone.



Cupcakes for a Cause

By Maggie Byrnes

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Every Wednesday a group of us get together and bake and decorate cupcakes which we donate to the Samaritan Center where I volunteer.  We make the cupcakes with a mix and have to measure, mix and cook them.  When they are cool, we add frosting and sprinkles.

We all work together and take turns deciding where to donate the cupcakes.

 Graduating from OCC

By Nicholas Courgi

NickC graduate

Onondaga Community College is an incredible 2-year institution for many reasons: great quality of education, free tutoring, equal opportunity for students, 25 clubs and organizations

, provided opportunities for international students, as well as their incredible Disability Services Office. I’m one of those lucky people to attend this prestigious college and had an exciting experience while attending OCC. My experience at OCC includes volunteering at the Student Association for three years, working at the Disability Services Office, and interning for 2 semesters at the New Media & Marketing Department. When I first arrived at OCC, I thought I would have a career in the Electronic Media Communication field but after taking 2 semesters of the field: I was not passionate about it. Then I ended up majoring in Professional Communication, I found my passion in inspiring others, which made me want to become a spokesperson for Autism.

On May 6, 2014, I addressed the Board of Trustees about my experiences at OCC and my views about Standardized Testing as well as the Ability to Benefit program, which was a program for students who do not have a High School diploma to get their GED, in which their classes apply to both their Associates Degree and their GED. On May 7, 2014, I was awarded as the recipient of the 2014 Curriculum Honor Award which I was chosen by the Professional Communication department, as the only representative of their department. My faculty presenter was Katharine Rumrill-Teece, my communication professor in a class called “Intercultural Communication”. This award is presented each year to graduating students who have achieved at an exceptional level. The ceremony recognized the academic achievements of a small group of OCC’s most outstanding students. It took place in Storer Auditorium. On May 17, 2014, was the day that I graduated OCC, which was the best accomplishment of my life, in which I was surrounded by amazing faculty and a supportive family. It was a moment to remember!

Working at The Daily Orange

By Tim Bennett


I graduated in June 2012 and began my CSS/Self-Directed plan with the help of Advocates. Since then, I have been volunteering at the Daily Orange and the Fayetteville Senior Center. At the Daily Orange I volunteer four days a week. My responsibilities are creating a business archive, checking the ads against the manifest, showing my boss Pete the paper, and sending out the paper to all the advertisers. I also send a Daily paper to those who subscribe to it. My other responsibilities are doing the online classifieds where I enter manifest data into the Microsoft excel document. This is a very 

fun job and I love it. I also volunteer with Advocates Good Returns with John W, my mentor.

For recreation, I bowl on Wednesdays, play basketball and kickball and workout at the East Area and Manlius YMCAs. I also enjoy work and spending time with friends. I have a dog and his name is Rocky. We got him at Helping Hounds Dog Rescue in July 2013.

My goals are gaining experience and knowledge in the field of media & communications and connecting with community opportunities related to my interests. I would like to be an active part of my community and expand my community network. I would like to develop my health and fitness. Most important to me is to increase my independent living skills. My CSS Plan is helping me to achieve my goals by making me more learn skills to become more independent. I’m still working on expanding my community network.

I have ADD, Asperger Syndrome and Hypotonia which is low muscle tone. I volunteered as the Fayetteville-Manlius Girls Varsity Lacrosse Manager and Assistant Manager for 7 years and I was Fayetteville-Manlius Varsity Field Hockey’s #1 Fan and now I am National Grid’s #1 Fan.

Taking Drama and Writing Courses at Syracuse Unviersity

By Jessica Jaworski

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Since entering my CSS plan, I have been taking drama and creative writing classes at Syracuse University. I am going to be taking cosmetology and a dessert class at BOCES. I currently volunteer at the DeWitt Community Library where I put away books on CDS, DVDs, CDs and magazines on the shelf. I also volunteer at Helping Hounds where I clean cages, walk dogs, and play with the dogs.

For recreational activities, I enjoy bowling, kickball, volleyball. I love to cook and bake and keep practicing so that one day I can be on a cooking show. I am part of a breakfast group that meets weekly and learns how to plan and prepare breakfast.

My CSS plan is helping by getting stronger with my social skills, meeting new people, and helping me acquire new skills such as typing and creative writing. One of my goals is to keep working on my hand writing and become a writer. Someday, I would like to write my own plays, music, TV shows and movies.

With my plan I am getting better at spending my own money and writing checks. My mentors and I practice smart shopping at the grocery stores and making sure my appearance is stronger.

I have two sisters and one brother, as well as a dog and cat My favorite sports teams are SU and the Yankees. I also participate in Special Olympics. I started with them when I was 8 years old. I play soccer, gymnastics and do track and field.

Working at Great Northern Pizza

By Jared Okun



My name is Jared Okun. I am 21 years old. I work at Great Northern Pizza in Fayetteville, NY. I have been there for 2 years and I love my job. My duties include preparation; chopping vegetables and preparing the dough for the various toppings for specific orders. I also clean the tables, sweep the floor and make sure we are ready for the next customers. I use self directed services with Advocates. I have a mentor who helps me improve my independent living skills and is also my friend. I also take a course at Onondaga Community College: a voice class where I sing and have fun. I enjoy all types of music. I feel that life, without music, would be sad.


I Brighten Lives

By Katrina Schwanke



Each week, Katrina Schwanke brightens the lives of many people in her community. Katrina takes pride in her volunteer work and finds joy in helping others. By sharing her time and her caring spirit, she has touched the lives of those at St. Camillus, St. Joseph's Hospital, Holy Family and Nun Better.



I Love Playing Piano

By Christina Gerst



Christine Gerst, a bright young woman with a passion for music, is a pioneer of Self-Determination. She has a love of swirling sights and sounds, and some of her favorite sensory experiences involve playing her piano and harp.



Working on Bridge Street

By Donald Mayer



My name is Donald Mayer. I have had a dream since I was in High School to work at News Channel 9. My Advocates Service Coordinator helped me find an opportunity through the state Employment Training Program to start my dream.


I am a Farmer

by Sam Procita



Sam Procita is a graduate of Onondaga Central Schools. After graduation, Sam attended a local day habilitation program. Sam had dreams of becoming a farmer and working with tractors. Sam's goals of farming could not be achieved within the confines of a traditional group day habilitation program.



I Work At OCC

By: Bill Hennigan

Bill H

For this article, I thought I’d tell everyone about my work at Onondaga Community College (OCC).

Usually, every Monday, Tuesday and Friday, I work at OCC doing scanning, proof-reading, making copies, assembling training binders, and anything else they need me to do. My fellow employees are very friendly, and whatever they need me to do, I handle it without hesitation until it’s done. I started working there several months ago, and I’ve really been enjoying it since then. My favorite thing to do there is scanning and proof-reading because I know how to do them better than anyone else. Whenever I come across something I don’t quite understand, I often ask for help when I need it. I like my work at OCC, and I hope to continue doing it for as long as I possibly can.


The Face of The YMCA

by Danny Kilbride


As the greeter (and ID checker) at the front desk of the Fayetteville YMCA, Danny Kilbride welcomes every visitor to the building and wishes those leaving “a great day”. His supervisor Sarah Lufler, membership and marketing director at the Y, can’t say enough about the value he adds to the members’ experience.

“Danny’s role helps us differentiate the Y from other fitness clubs,” she says. “He gives their experience a human touch which has a huge impact on the people at the Y.” According to Lufler, Danny has built relationships and takes the time to get to know the members, often sharing a cheer or a jeer about someone’s favorite sports team. He also likes to learn about other departments and other employees’ jobs, and has built relationships throughout the building. “It’s the light he brings to everyone here,” says Lufler. Starting as a Y volunteer, Danny has been a paid employee for almost two years and works approximately 25 hours a week. 


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