24 June 2024 Learning Side by Side By Colin Spencer '19

Recent graduates of the Arc Ontario’s College Experience program share their views. 

Three students who recently earned the College Experience Certificate during Commencement reflected on their involvement in the program. Branden Black, Joshua Chrzanowski and Peter Luna earned the certificate through the College Experience program, which offers students with intellectual disabilities the chance to experience college life and develop independence and work skills. 

Operated by the Arc Ontario, students in the program attend classes and participate in extracurricular activities, such as the Best Buddies club, at either Hobart and William Smith or Finger Lakes Community College. 

“I like spending time with College Experience and HWS students,” says Black, of Waterloo, NY. “The college students help me in class. I like talking with the students.”

“I really like hanging out with my college friends,” says Chrzankowski, of Geneva, NY. “It’s been a good time, and now I am graduating and want to get a job!” 

“I like doing music and drumming on campus,” says Luna, of Geneva, NY. “And I like Best Buddies.”

At HWS, College Experience students have participated in various courses, including classes in Educational Studies, Dance, Music, Biology, Environmental Studies, Computer Science, English and others, often working together with HWS students inside and outside of class on readings, projects and homework assignments. 

Madelyn Kilmer ’24, MAT ’25, an educational studies and disability and childhood double major, believes the College Experience program is the best of its kind. “My hope is that the students are accepted and included into the college community more here at HWS. I can’t wait to see how this program grows and I hope to keep in touch with all of the College Experience students. They have made my time here at HWS so much better and I will forever be grateful for my friends.”

Clyde Williams ’24, MSM ’25, who taught drumming to College Experience students, learned how music can act as another form of communication. “What’s important to me, something I learned, is that music brings people together and builds kinship and friendship,” says Williams, a youth and social justice major. 

HWS faculty participating in the program expressed how valuable it was having the program’s students in their classes.

“Having College Experience students in my class last semester was a really neat experience,” says Associate Professor of Educational Studies Diana Baker. “They brought great insights to our conversations. Over the course of the semester, the HWS and College Experience students got to know each other pretty well and really enjoyed bumping into each other on campus and in the community. My hope for the future is that the College Experience Students continue to explore their interests by taking classes in different areas and exploring all the different opportunities HWS has to offer.”

Associate Professor of Educational Studies Mary Kelly, who has collaborated with the program for nearly 20 years and has served as an informal faculty liaison, shares how the program has been a highlight of her time at HWS. “The College Experience students bring so much enthusiasm and thoughtfulness when they sit in on my classes, and I’ve found we all learn more when we work together side-by-side,” she says.

“We appreciate the long partnership with Hobart and William Smith Colleges and feel part of the Colleges’ community,” says Brian Whitley, the College Experience specialist for Arc Ontario. 

The program has been offered by HWS since 2006. Since then, nearly 40 students from the Geneva area have participated.