A Summer of Connecting with Community

I’ve been around and about, sharing my message within the Boulder community. This summer, I again worked for Cultiva – my third (and final) year. (For more about Cultiva, read here:  https://benjaminbreakingbarriers.wordpress.com/2014/08/12/urban-agriculture-initiative/   and   https://benjaminbreakingbarriers.wordpress.com/2013/08/20/my-first-job/ ). Just like last season, I gave my autism presentation for everyone working with this awesome urban agriculture youth group – we came in from weeding and harvesting in the gardens and took an “education break” under the shade structure…

Cultiva presentation b 2015

Then, someone in the Boulder Valley Rotary Club who heard my Colorado Public Radio interview (https://www.cpr.org/news/story/inside-autistic-mind-boulders-benjamin-tarasewicz) invited me to speak with their group about autism. I did so during July and really enjoyed meeting everyone in this civic-minded club – and especially learning some new jokes and riddles! Here’s my latest favorite:

Imagine you are in a room. There are no doors or windows. There is only a mirror and table. How do you escape from the room?
You look in the mirror and see what you saw.
You use the saw to cut the table in half.
Two halves make a whole.
You crawl out the hole.

Isn’t that so cool and clever?  Then, just before school resumed in August (for my final semester as a high-school student), I spoke for Interface – a group of mental health professionals who meet regularly around the Boulder area to expand their knowledge. What a great group; I loved the insightful questions afterwards, and there were so many folks specifically helping people with autism.

Rotary Club presentation

Volunteer work is another part of my life these days: I’ve been giving time to the Boulder Humane Society, helping out in the cat kennels. I help socialize the kitties, keep their living quarters clean, and wash piles of cat/dog dishes and laundry. I’m glad to be giving back…I’ve been lucky to grow up with beautiful and affectionate cats and dogs, all adopted from the Boulder Humane Society.

During this last semester of high school, I’m continuing to volunteer for Circle of Friends and Adaptive P.E.  (Both school groups are for kids with significant special needs, and as I wrote in our blog several years ago, “I like helping kids who aren’t able to speak or move around the way I can. Even though I have autism, [helping out] shows me how much more difficult things could be, and that helps make me appreciate my life as it is.”

My newest volunteer effort focuses on becoming a mentor! I’m joining a group called Project Eye to Eye, which has almost 60 chapters around the country.  It was started by Jonathan Mooney, a guy with serious dyslexia, who is now a celebrity speaker and a nationally-known consultant on learning differences. I’ll be paired with a middle-school student who has a similar diagnosis to mine, and we’ll be doing artwork together on a weekly basis. Eye to Eye mentors will be helping the younger students to learn about themselves and to develop strategies for succeeding in the classroom. We’ll be acting as role models, helping our mentees to value their learning differences, to build self-esteem, and to have a voice in their own education. Pretty exciting!

Arapahoe Peak 1

In between times, my mom and I have been hiking to unwind our minds… The mountains are such a beautiful escape, and there’ve been tons of wildflowers…heavenly honey-fragrance and brilliant colors.

Arapahoe Peak 4

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