Graduating seniors who have been involved with Disabled Student Services were honored for their accomplishments Wednesday as the program recognized notable students and scholarship recipients.
DSS at Cal State Long Beach held its annual Awards and Recognition Reception in The Pointe in the Walter Pyramid on Wednesday afternoon, where students, family and staff were invited to celebrate everyone involved with the organization.
Founded in 1973, the program saw its highest amount of graduates this semester with over 400 students completing their time at CSULB. After this semester’s commencement, the university will have reached 10,000 students that have graduated through the program since it was established.
For many students with disabilities, DSS has been a lifesaving program that has aided and accommodated them with tutors, resources and extended time for school work. Gibson Reedy, a senior film and electronic arts major, recalled his fears of managing school work after moving from Oregon to Long Beach.
“I was worried I’d fall behind [in classes] because I don’t work as fast as other students,” Reedy said. “But I always felt like I had this support system, that no matter what happens I’d [have] everything I need to make sure I get the most of my education. The center was here for me.”
The event began with opening remarks from Director of Disabled Student Services, David Sanfilippo.
“We really do recognize the partnership and the collaboration that we have across the campus and community,” Sanfilippo said. “And when I talk about this, I’m talking about the faculty and staff and administrators that we work with everyday.”
Following the opening remarks, staff and faculty members were recognized for their contributions to the program and its students including Roberto Alcaraz, a professor in the theater department, who received the Outstanding Faculty Award.
“For me, it’s been a wonderful opportunity to revisit my dedication to social justice,” Alcaraz said. “Dedication to an inclusive classroom and to keep my class an open space and do so in a creative way.”
Sanfilippo, who is retiring after 40 years of service, recognized Keith Garvey, who has been involved with the program for 21 years. Garvey will be graduating this spring with a bachelors in mechanical engineering.
Garvey, who is unable to articulate his words clearly, asked Sanfilippo to help deliver his speech.
“One thing I learned from Dave, my brother — my dad, is that you can’t let [what others say] define who you are,” Garvey said. “You have to know who you are.”
The event concluded with a video collage of past graduates from the program and students graduating this spring, as well as a send off for Sanfilippo.
“In high school and middle school, most of us were embarrassed of our disabilities,” Reedy said. “Through the DSS, we walk around school with our heads high and smiles on our faces.”