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Andy Russo ('15)
By Bill Gentry, Jan Gillis (’07) and Kelley Freund (’07)
Virginia Beach, Va.
Overcoming Barriers volunteer
I chose JMU because it offers my major: athletics training ... but, seriously, it’s the nicest student body in the world! I felt so at home from the first time I came to campus. The atmosphere, the people here, — it’s just so warm and welcoming. I felt like I fit right in, right away.
Why the Huber Learning Community?
You have professors and students around to bounce ideas off of, to talk about your intended fields of study and how you’re doing in classes. Living with people that have the same interests is a real benefit. Our discussions in class carry over outside of class. It’s been really cool. On top of that there are the volunteer opportunities.
'You have professors and students around to bounce ideas off of, to talk about your intended fields of study and how you’re doing in classes. Living with people that have the same interests is a real benefit.'
So what about those volunteer opportunities?
I work with the JMU program Overcoming Barriers, which gives individuals with disabilities the tools to participate successfully in the community and live healthy, active lifestyles. For part of the semester, I traveled every Tuesday night to the Waynesboro YMCA and played with children with disabilities — throwing, catching, dribbling, bouncing balls. It was really high energy and fun! Now I volunteer for another program working with children with disabilities, called Just Dance. On Thursdays I’m doing the Chicken Dance, Pokey, Cha-Cha — lots of dance!
What’s been the high point so far?
I’m in the health industry to help people, so being able to volunteer in these ways is a big reward. We were each assigned a mentee. On Thursdays, I had a little 7-year-old boy named Luka. My younger brother at home is nine, so it felt like hanging out with my little brother. Luka came into the program, shy and quiet. Then, I could see him adjust to people around him. He just grew as a person in the space of eight, short weeks. He became more involved, more talkative and more outgoing. Being able to see that and know that I helped with that — I can’t even explain it!
Want to offer any words of wisdom to prospective students?
I came from a very small private school; my graduating class was 76. Coming here, I was a little worried I would get lost. Yet the personal attention from Dr. Babcock is really cool. JMU feels like home. I’ve been selected to be a FROG [First Year Orientation Guide] next year. Coming to JMU was the best decision of my life; I don’t regret it whatsoever.
Read the stories of other Huber students: