Missing Mary Cariola

August 10, 2018

This month I turn this space over to Guest Blogger Savannah Fetzner. Savannah made the emotional decision to leave her career as a Mary Cariola Teacher Aide to stay at home with her daughter, Elsie. Her message of what she leaves behind at Mary Cariola Children’s Center is impactful and inspirational.

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I have been a teacher’s aide for four years at Mary Cariola Children’s Center School and it's been nothing short of a rich experience. I also had the opportunity to work in a residential setting, but my niche was really carved out here, in this special place.

I recently made the decision halfway through my maternity leave to stay home with my beautiful new daughter, as this is such a crucial time in her life and I am fortunate to have this opportunity.  However, this wonderful personal opportunity leaves me missing the students and staff at Mary Cariola.

When I began at Mary Cariola, there was an inevitable period of adjustment to the newness of the position as there always will be when you start a new job. The good news was I very quickly learned I was given a great opportunity to be a part of Mary Cariola’s mission. My responsibilities created the most beautiful bonds with older students, within the age range of 17 to 21. On occasion there was a need elsewhere in the school and I would be called upon to fill in the gaps in other classrooms with younger children.

Going from one end of school and one age group and skill set to the other end with different skill sets in between, you adapt and lean how to manage multiple tasks, students and circumstances. Being in this environment, dealing with staggering diversity of the student population, it revealed to me that this was far more than a job. In fact, when people would ask me what I did and I explained it, the stereotypical responses included;

"Wow, I could never do that."

"Good for you!"

"You know, it takes a real special person to work with kids like that."

"I feel sorry for those kids."

I of course, was quite disappointed upon hearing any one of these responses yet I knew that people were reacting in their own way. All I could really do was just smile and take the opportunity to educate. Special as everyone is, Mary Cariola students are the ones who shine so brightly by being who they are.

With my decision to stay at home with my daughter, I sincerely hope the Cariola kids and young adults have gotten, at the very least, half of what I've gotten out of working with them. I must also say, in working with the students, it would be wonderful if we had a societal shift in how people think of children with multiple disabilities and medical needs. This would constitute a refreshing change of view.

As I think about my time at Mary Cariola and write this blog I urge you… staff, family and friends to enjoy the students for who he or she truly is. Be a genuine friend
as well as a vigilant advocate. Help them in the things they're going through. I guarantee that your relationship will be mutually rewarding.  It’s a privilege to know such great kids!

It is most definitely a sacrifice leaving all of the students I love so much. It saddens me that I won't watch the littles grow up anymore, or the young men and women, who still have my heart, race toward graduation. It's been a joy to get to know such beautiful kids, to watch them completely shatter expectations and learn new things they are so capable of. It’s been my privilege to be a support on their good days and bad days.

Friends, enjoy it! You're a part of something great. Take care of my kiddos for me!