Published April 22, 2010 at 1:39 pm in , by .
It was a memorable weekend (April 16-18) for Helen Hymel.
Hymel traveled by plane, visited Florida, and saw the Atlantic Ocean. She had never done any of these things before.
Oh, and she shook hands with, and received a signed note from, Bill Clinton, the 42nd president of the United States.
Those were firsts for her, too.
“It was awesome,” said Hymel of meeting the former commander in chief. “I also loved the beach.”
Hymel, a D.R.I.V.E. (diversity, responsibility, inclusion, vision, and experiential learning) student at Keuka College; Kristin Curran, a senior occupational therapy major and D.R.I.V.E. mentor; Heather Bond, D.R.I.V.E. program manager; and College President Joseph G. Burke traveled to Florida for the Third Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U) meeting at the University of Miami.
Clinton said that more than 290,000 people would be positively impacted by commitments made at the CGI U, including the ones by Keuka College, University of Rochester, Roberts Wesleyan College, and the Golisano Foundation to provide students with developmental disabilities access to college classes and campus life. D.R.I.V.E. is a collaboration between Keuka College, Penn Yan Central School District, and Yates Country ARC.
Prior to one of the weekend plenary sessions, Clinton discussed the D.R.I.V.E. program while sharing the stage with Hymel, Curran and Burke.
“Helen showed up with a D.R.I.V.E. t-shirt and wanted to give it to President Clinton,” said Burke. “There wasn’t time to do that on stage, but one of Clinton’s aides said she would give to him. In return, Helen was presented with a signed note from Clinton.”
Hymel is searching for a suitable frame for the Clinton autograph. In the meantime, she is keeping it in a secure place.
One of the lasting of impressions that Hymel has of Clinton is that “he liked to talk.” But what he talked about made an even bigger impact.
“He talked about the earthquake in Haiti and the importance of helping the people there,” said Hymel, who also indicated that Clinton stressed the importance of proving clean water for people in all countries. “I feel bad for people who don’t have what we (in the United States) have. In Africa and other countries, some people don’t even have shoes. I feel lucky.”
Lucky and committed. Hymel came back from Florida with a strong desire to “help people who are not as fortunate as I am.”
Actually, she didn’t wait that long before turning that desire into action. On Sunday, before heading to the airport for her return flight home, she joined some other students who attend the CGI U for a service project at the Miami-Dade County Homeless Trust’s homestead homeless complex, a community of approximately 500 formerly homeless individuals and families. Despite incessant rain, Hymel joined Bond and Curran in doing landscaping work at the complex.
D.R.I.V.E. students are given Keuka College IDs that allow them to take materials out of the library and use dining and athletic facilities, and have Keuka e-mail accounts.
Keuka students, such as Curran, serve as peer mentors to the D.R.I.V.E. students, facilitating their integration into the campus community.
D.R.I.V.E. students are guests in at least one Keuka College course each semester.
“I sing the praises of D.R.I.V.E.—it has been a joy and highlight of my experience at Keuka,” said Stephanie Craig, assistant professor of social work. “I am very passionate about my D.R.I.V.E. students’ experiences and I have formed ongoing relationships with many of them.”
Established in 2005 by Clinton, the CGI convenes global leaders to devise and implement innovative solutions to some of the world’s most pressing challenges. Part of the CGI, the CGI U is a forum to engage college students in global citizenship.
Bond believes the CGI U will “begin to mount awareness of developmentally disabled people, who have the desire to pursue their goals and dreams like anyone else.”