My name is Will Peters, I am a recent graduate of AHRC New York City’s Melissa Riggio Higher Education Program (MRHEP) at the College of Staten Island. The College of Staten Island is one of the colleges of the City University of New York, which provides students with intellectual and other developmental disabilities (IDD) an opportunity to partake in a college environment. This setting allowed me to explore new things about the world and my place in it.
Thanks to a partnership with The City University of New York and the New York State Office for People With Developmental Disabilities, students with IDD can enjoy a fully inclusive higher education. MRHEP prepares young adults with IDD to be competitively employed and to obtain higher earnings.
I was able to try new challenges, activities, and pick my own classes. Sometimes picking classes was difficult, because you have to keep your class workload in mind. Every class is different, with different amounts of homework, but somehow everything is always due on the same day. Everyone always concentrates on their classes.
I am on the autism spectrum, however I never let that stop me from accomplishing my goals. When I first started college, I felt that I couldn’t follow instructions very well. While I still struggle with understanding certain directions, I have improved myself greatly. I found that one of my weaknesses was keeping myself motivated and focused to complete tasks on time. Time management has always been a struggle. Yet after my years at college and with the help of my student mentors I find that I am on my way to becoming more confident in myself when it comes to reaching deadlines and accomplishing my goals.
With the help of a student mentor by my side, I was able to get work done at my own pace, comprehend college material in a way that I could understand, and expand my creative work to places that I never thought I could reach on my own. But what I really liked were the internships I worked with. I’m currently in my alumni year doing an internship for a studio where I set up for interviews, podcasts, and photoshoots. I put up lighting, props, and also work with the cameras to record.
I actually graduated from the MRHEP last May. Since graduating, I am now spending a year looking for my next steps while still in the program. Staff work with recent alumni to help them get ready for what comes after college, like work or more schooling. I’d like to pursue part-time employment while also looking for opportunities within the arts. I hope to use the things I learned while at college to do better in my field.
College taught me a lot. I learned that we all have limitations, and I mean everyone. There are some things you just cannot do on your own at the start. Some times you need to work with others before you can really be successful. High school was not the end for me, as my journey was just about to begin. For anyone in high school who thinks that how it is in high school is how it will be forever, don’t worry! While high school is a popularity contest, the people in college are more open-minded, and definitely more mature. Be happy with who you are. High school is not the end.
Will Peters is 2-year-old graduate of the AHRC New York City’s Melissa Riggio Higher Education Program at the College of Staten Island. He is pursuing a career in media. He is interested in videography and performing arts. He currently has an internship at Hub 17, a photography and videography studio in Staten Island and is preforming in local community theater.