Hands-on technology

Centenary student Jessica Mistrey learns how to use switches to help a nonverbal student communicate.

Centenary College in Hackettstown, NJ, is known for its innovative approach to teaching special education methods—including the use of assistive technologies—to tomorrow’s teachers. Centenary, in fact, was one of the first colleges with education programs in New Jersey to provide a dual certification program for general education and special education students.

The Matheny School integrates technology into every program it has, and Sean Murphy, Matheny’s principal, is on the advisory board of Centenary’s Education Department. So, because of the close relationship between the two schools, Centenary education students often visit Matheny to learn about the latest developments in assistive technology and to get some hands-on experience.

Taking the ‘Plunge’

From left, Centenary students Rachel Edwards of Phillipsburg, NJ, Nicolle Siebens of Frelinghuysen, NJ, and Joseph Jiles of Camden sing a rousing rendition of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.”

Every semester, Centenary College in Hackettstown, NJ, conducts a day-long community service project for all incoming students. It’s called Community Plunge, and it offers students the opportunity to explore communities around the college by volunteering for one day.

Matheny is always on the Centenary list, and this year a group of incoming freshmen participated with Matheny students in an adapted baseball game. Most Matheny students are in wheelchairs, so the Centenary students wheeled them down the base paths and helped them bat and field as well.

Some of the Centenary students, such as Amber Spere of South River, NJ, are special education majors. “I enjoy being in this environment,” Spere said. “I always wanted to be a teacher, and when I started to interact with the special education students in my high school, I decided to major in special education. I find it so rewarding.”

Amber Spere of South River, left, with Matheny teacher Darlene Tammara and student Kimberly Alarcon.

Taking the plunge

Centenary student Anthony Pare sharing a humorous moment with Matheny student Mark O’Connell.

Every semester incoming students at Centenary College in Hackettstown, NJ, take part in a day-long community service project called the Community Plunge. The project is mandatory for all new students and offers them a selection of different sites at which they can volunteer. This year’s Community Plunge was held on Monday, August 26, and Matheny was one of 18 different organizations that were included.

The students spent the entire day participating in several recreation therapy activities including relay races and adapted sports. Recreation therapy at Matheny provides our students and patients with a variety of recreation opportunities and resources to improve their physical, emotional, cognitive and social well being.

Volunteers are needed to help out in recreation therapy activities evenings and weekends. Volunteers can serve as recreation assistants, classroom aides, tutors or just friendly visitors. For more information, call Gail Cunningham, at (908) 234-0011, ext. 282; or email her at volunteers@matheny.org.

Centenary student Nicolena Marrero getting ready for a catch in the egg in toss competition.


Taking the plunge

Centenary student Chelsea Qualliu of Westwood, NJ, pushes Matheny student Scott Gordon in a wheelchair race.

Every fall, incoming freshmen at Centenary College in Hackettstown, NJ, participate in Community Plunge, a mandatory community service requirement in which students volunteer at a variety of community organizations. Matheny is fortunate to be on Centenary’s list every year, and on Monday, August 27, several students from the liberal arts college participated in a variety of Olympics-style events that included wheelchair races and obstacle courses.

Josh Ecochard, Centenary’s coordinator of community service, told The Star-Ledger that the students visiting Matheny found the day unexpectedly moving. “It’s very emotional,” he said. The college believes the event offers its students “a unique opportunity to focus on a particular area of the community by providing them with the choice of several different locations to volunteer at for the day.” In 1990, Centenary became the first college in New Jersey to introduce community service as a required part of its curriculum.

Centenary student Kelly Conklin of Monroe, NJ, maneuvers Matheny student Michael Taurozzi’s wheelchair through an obstacle course.

WANTED: volunteers

Since most Matheny students and patients are full-time residents, we need volunteers to serve as recreation assistants, classroom aides, tutors and friendly visitors. Our volunteer office tries to place people in positions that meet both their interests and availability. In addition, we invite volunteer groups to host parties for residents or participate in other special projects, including fundraising activities.

Matheny students and patients have medically complex developmental disabilities. Practically everyone is in a wheelchair and many are non-verbal. Yet, underneath their physical difficulties, they like the same music, games, sports and movies as everyone else. For those willing to discover each person’s personality, the rewards are great.

If you’re interested in more information, contact the volunteer services office at (908) 234-0011, ext. 282, or email volunteers@matheny.org

Above: Centenary College students share a laugh with a Matheny student.

Below: Junior Friends of Matheny help Matheny patients enjoy Valentines Day.  The JFOM volunteers are students at Bernards High School in Bernardsville and Ridge High School in Basking Ridge.