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Westminster cluster course students visit with local non-profit program

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Posted on Wednesday, February 1, 2023

A group of Westminster College students helped raise $500 for Austin’s Place, a Butler, Pa.-based training facility for those with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), through a fall service-learning project.

Westminster College students enrolled in the fall Buzzfeed cluster course—which links environmental science and digital social media course—journeyed to Austin’s Place, a facility for young adults transitioning out of traditional school systems who are diagnosed with ASD, developmental and intellectual disabilities and those who are moderately-to-significantly impaired.

During their visit, cluster students worked with Austin’s Place clients at several different craft stations, including one where they created hand-over-hand stamping and artwork.

Artwork was then used to create unique holiday cards, which featured the art on the card covers, information about Austin’s Place and quotes from cluster students about their experiences working with Austin’s Place clients.

The cards were paired with jars of honey from the Westminster College Apiary and were then sold during November’s Alternative Gift Market—an annual event held at Westminster as a nontraditional way to share and purchase meaningful gifts. Sales generated $500, which was then donated back to the non-profit.

As part of their coursework, students—using video documentation—recorded their assumptions about those with ASD prior to visiting Austin’s Place. After their visit, they revisited their submissions and reflected on their newfound knowledge of inclusion, themselves and the young adults in the program.

“My Austin’s Place experience was heartwarming and eye opening,” said Shea O’Donnell, a sophomore environmental studies major from Hatfield, Pa. “Sharing the joy of beekeeping and seeing their beautiful smiles is something I will never forget.”

The visit to Austin’s Place aligns with Westminster’s values of integrity, person-centered programming and collaboration, as well as the learning objectives of the Buzzfeed course that included digital media essentials and environmental science.

“The Buzzfeed cluster offers Westminster students valuable experiences to better themselves as both student and individuals,” said Sophia Galietta, a junior fine art major and psychology minor from Bethel Park, Pa.

To learn more about the media production or environmental science programs, visit