Parents and Families  

eNewsletter: March 2011

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University of Notre Dame President to Speak at Commencement 2011 AQ Idol 5
Commencement 2011 Wake up People 5 - a HUGE Success!
Study Abroad from the Eye of a Parent Wigs For Kids
Consider a Major in POHI/ Conductive Education Model Arab League 2011
Broadway Revue, A Music Department Tradition  
University of Notre Dame President Rev. John I. Jenkins, CSC to Speak at Aquinas College 2011 Commencement Ceremony
By: Sally Reeves
Rev. John I. Jenkins, CSC

The 2011 Aquinas College Commencement will be held on Saturday, May 7 at 2 p.m. in the Sturrus Sports & Fitness Center, 1580 East Fulton Street.  There are approximately 500 students taking part in the graduation ceremony.  Commencement is the opening event of the Aquinas125th anniversary celebration.  There will be anniversary events throughout the 2011-2012 year with commencement 2012 wrapping up the year long celebration.

Addressing this year’s class will be Rev. John I. Jenkins, CSC, University of Notre Dame president. A member of the Notre Dame faculty since 1990, Father Jenkins was elected president-elect in 2004 and became the University’s 17th president in 2005. He served the previous four years as vice president and associate provost. A professor of philosophy at Notre Dame, Father Jenkins also was religious superior of the Holy Cross priests and brothers from 1997 to 2000. He was ordained a priest at Notre Dame in 1983. >More

Commencement 2011

By: Jan Sommerville

AQ Commencement

The Aquinas College Commencement Exercises will be held at 2 p.m. on Saturday, May 7, at the Sturrus Sports & Fitness Center on campus.  Informational packets will be mailed from the Provost to the permanent address of all students who have completed the paperwork to graduate. Look for this around the third week of March.


Briefly, the events will include the following:

Friday, May 6

  • 5 to 7 p.m.: President's Reception for all graduates and their guests (free/invitation to follow)

Saturday, May 7

  • 10 a.m.:  Baccalaureate Mass (optional)
  • 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.:  Brunch (optional/$5 per person/ticket required)
  • 2 p.m.:  Commencement (free ticket required to enter)

Details and instructions for Commencement tickets will be in the Provost's mailing and are available on the Commencement website.  Initially each graduate is allowed up to five tickets; those not needing five will have their extra tickets placed in reserve and those wishing to have more than five will be able to pull from that reserve after a period of time.  We are confident that all reasonable requests will be honored.  Please be aware that Commencement seating will be on bleachers, which may prove difficult for young children and the elderly.


If you have any questions after receiving the informational packet, do not hesitate to contact Jan Sommerville in the President's Office at (616) 632-2881 or or Monica Edison in the Provost's Office at (616) 632-2151 or

Study Abroad from the Eye of a Parent
By: Monica Edison
Maggie Edison and Monica Edison

Honestly, I'm not one of those so-called "helicopter moms." But I just couldn't resist the opportunity to visit my daughter Maggie last month in Tully Cross, Ireland, where she is one of twenty fortunate students and two seasoned Aquinas professors who are participating in Aquinas College's Ireland program this semester.  My trip was intentionally brief - just four days - but it was enough time to soak in the beauty and charm of Tully Cross and its inhabitants and to get a feel for what life is like for students who participate in this incredible program.  It was also a resounding confirmation that the value of Maggie's experience abroad is truly priceless. 


Life in Tully Cross has a peaceful rhythm that allows the students to focus on coursework, exploring the breathtaking landscape, volunteerism in the local schools, and building community with each other and the residents of the village. During my visit, I was amazed at how close-knit

this group had become in a matter of just six weeks together. Whether the students were planning the evening meal for their cottage or a trip to Galway for the weekend, it was clear that they have formed remarkable bonds with each other. In addition, the many group travel excursions throughout Ireland have already created lasting memories and entertaining stories, willingly shared with me over a pint at Coyne's Pub.


My last day in Tully Cross was the eve of the group's departure for three days in Dublin, followed immediately by their two-week spring break.  I marveled at the students' travel plans and the countries they would visit - a virtual alphabet soup of European destinations from Athens to Paris to Venice. Clearly, these smart and fearless students are embracing this chance to explore, see and do during their time abroad.

In fact, amidst Maggie's preparations for the semester in Ireland, she very earnestly stated that her goals were "to meet everyone and try everything" during the experience abroad. As a parent, I was so proud to witness personally that she is exceeding her goals on a daily basis.  She has simply blossomed through her participation in this program.  Her horizons are forever expanded. As I hugged Maggie goodbye, we shared a somewhat emotional moment before we started to laugh at the irony of her tears, for I have never seen my daughter happier.  After spending the semester in Ireland, I just know that the whole world will be at her feet. And she will be ready to take it on!

Consider a Major in POHI/ Conductive Education

By: Andrea Gainok Swiger

Conductive Education Student

What is POHI?
The POHI major at Aquinas College is a teacher preparation program designed to prepare students for the State of Michigan Physically or Otherwise Health Impaired Special Education Endorsement.


What is Conductive Education?
Conductive education is an intensive, multi-disciplinary approach to education, training and development for individuals with cerebral palsy, spina bifida and other motor challenges. Conductive Education was developed in 1945 in Hungary by Dr. Andras Peto. Peto theorized that disabled people are characterized by disintegrated function. His theory was that this may be overcome, and that coordinated functioning can be developed through an indirect cognitive

route involving teaching and learning. Conductive Education integrates medical knowledge with educational methods to enable the individual it serves to learn how to gain control over his or her movements. The POHI course work is interlaced with a strong emphasis in Conductive Education methodology which also qualifies the candidate for international conductor-teacher status upon graduation.


What certification will you have upon graduation?
Upon graduation students completing this program earn an Elementary Education teacher certification and a K-12 Physically or Otherwise Health Impaired (POHI) endorsement through the State of Michigan. An additional international certification as a Conductive Education Teacher is also earned in connection with the international Peto Institute; Budapest, Hungry.


Do you hope to have a degree that will be marketable upon graduation?
All students who have graduated with the POHI degree from Aquinas College have attained employment immediately upon graduation. 59% of graduates currently work in the field of conductive education, 33% are utilizing their special education certification within traditional school settings, and 8% are currently working within other related fields. That is a 100% job success rate in a multitude of career options.


Are you interested in providing special education and/or therapeutic services?
Many of the college students who have completed the program in the past showed an interest in special education and/or therapeutic services such as physical, occupational, speech, or music therapy as a possible career aspiration. Conductive Education is a psycho-educational approach that focuses primarily on the child’s personality and lifestyle, integrating physiological and medical aspects. It is a combined special education and physical therapy, based on Peto’s theory that motor control can be learned. The approach focuses on improving the physical effects of a disability while encouraging motivation to become independent and increasing self esteem. The desired outcome is maximal independence, which refers to the ability to enter school, the community, and ultimately the workforce with minimal or no artificial aids.  Anyone interested in these or other fields who wants to work with children of all ages in a positive and life enriching environment will find this degree to be very rewarding.


Do you desire to work in an innovative field?
Aquinas College is the only institution in the United States offering a POHI (physically and/or health impaired) methodology teacher training program utilizing the conductive education method. Professionals from the International Peto Institute in Budapest, Hungary deliver the curriculum, which is designed by Aquinas College with assistance from the International Peto Teachers College. Aquinas students spend numerous hours at the Conductive Learning Center (CLC) in Grand Rapids, working directly with children with cerebral palsy and motor challenges. Aquinas College is only one of two West Michigan institutions offering the POHI endorsement given by the State of Michigan.


Would you like to feel like you are making a difference in the lives of children and families?

Children who participate in Conductive Education are taught to see themselves as active and self-reliant participants in the world. The goal of CE is the socio-cultural integration of children with these motor disorders by assisting the child to develop the ability to solve the problems of daily living, such as dressing, eating, practicing personal hygiene, and other activities that are part of daily life and will allow the child to ultimately live as independently as possible. The achievements learned through conductive education increase confidence, self esteem and provide problem-solving skills for daily activities. The result of conductive education is that the quality of life is improved as well as the psychological well being of the child and family.
Broadway Revue, A Music Department Tradition

By: Karen Mannino  

Broadway Revue

I am a singer. However, I am not a music major.  I love being at AQ, because (among other things,) I can be involved in activities I am passionate about, even if it’s not something I’m focusing on academically. The Music Club provides a wonderful opportunity for me to be part of the magic that is music at AQ, even when I’m not in any music classes.

Broadway Revue is a Music Department tradition that has music students (and those who spend time with them) excited months before the auditions.  Sitting in the lounge of the AMC, students are breaking into song all the time.  Whenever a Broadway tune comes up people say “You should sing that for Broadway Revue.”  It’s a chance for students to pick a song they love and perform it for their peers in an informal setting.  It’s no-pressure musical fun for performers and audience alike.

In past years, students have been responsible for showing up prepared to sing.  This year, the Music Department Chair, Barbara McCargar asked the Music Club to produce and organize Broadway Revue from start to finish. Immediately, ideas began flowing about how we were going to make this year’s revue extra special, classy, a real event on campus that would be remembered and looked forward to next year.

Music is inherently a communal art form and I think, on some level, musicians like working together.  Everyone brought ideas to the table in those first planning meetings, and then everyone brought resources, connections and skills for how to make those ideas into reality. Students who work at restaurants volunteered their expertise in serving, and even got us deals on food.  As the stray art major in the club, I designed the posters and the program.  Students set up and heard auditions.  Our fearless leaders, Hayley Howe and Chelsea Funk, would be satisfied with nothing less than quality.  We searched for just the right decorations and argued over our food choices until everything was worked out.

The night of the event was a triumph for everyone involved.  Students who happened to be studying at the Moose while we set up - spreading cloths on the tables and sprinkled them with rose petals - stayed to see what was going on, and called their friends.  I spent the evening mixing mock-tails and running around with a tray full of pie, but when I stopped long enough to hear a friend sing “They Can’t Take That Away From Me” I saw the seats full of happy students, relaxing, sipping their drink, softly singing along, enjoying the music.  Behind the drink table musicians were smiling and swaying to the music, wishing each other luck in hushed voices, and congratulating each other on a song well preformed.

Staying with this production from it’s inception as an idea, to it’s final round of applause, gave us a sense of commitment to each other, our club, music, and the performance.  The music department has a special gift to give the larger Aquinas College community.  We are able to bring this gift to the students where they are, going about their busy days, to transform one more stressful Tuesday night into a really special evening.  I think students will remember this year’s Broadway Revue; the roses, the cranberry-lime mock-tails, the top three AQ Idol contestants playing and singing together, the French silk pie, the jazz band, the beautiful Robin Brown as MC, and all of the music.  I certainly will.  The music club has made some notes, and we are already thinking of ways to make it better next year.

AQ Idol 5

By: Tim Ramsay, Program and Building Coordinator for Campus Life

Colin Tobin performs during AQ Idol 5

This year, the Aquinas College Campus Life department celebrated our 5th annual AQ Idol event. This is one of our most popular and entertaining events of the year. The first round took place on Feb. 3 in the Moose Cafe; we had 15 eager contestants vying for 6 lucky spots that would move on to the second round of the competition.  We had one of the biggest crowds on hand as talented AQ students took the stage; singing their favorite songs in front of the panel of judges and their peers.  The second round of competition, Feb. 8, brought even more talent from our students. The judges were blown away by the talent at Aquinas.  The final round, held during our "Wake Up People" event, on Feb. 18 in the Wege Ballroom, proved to be the best finale ever in AQ Idol history. It was the largest crowd to ever see the AQ Idol Finale; Freshmen Colin Tobin stole the show with his performance and won the hearts of the audience and judges.  We

would like to applaud all the contestants that participated this year and congratulations to Colin Tobin for being the AQ Idol 5 Winner and a $200 check. Be sure to look for information on AQ Idol 6 in 2012! 

Wake up People 5 - a HUGE Success!

By Heather Bloom Hall, Director of Student Activities & Orientation

Wake Up People 5!

What do 525 students, 50 pizzas, 2100 hot dogs, an atomic wing eating contest, 60 cases of Pepsi products, 60 buckets of prizes from Celebration Cinemas and student organizations/departments, 10 huge bags of popcorn, and 1 bag of garbage all have in common? WAKE UP PEOPLE at AQ!

Nothing beats the mid-winter blues on campus like the annual Pepsi Bottling Company and Campus Life Office event, “Wake Up People!” In its fifth year, this event (traditionally held in the Cook Carriage House) had to move to the Wege Ballroom to accommodate the sheer number of students and their guests for the event.

The event traditionally provides free food, live entertainment, free prizes and giveaways, and is anchored by the AQ Idol finals. This year was no exception. We are grateful to Yesterdog, Eastown’s Pizza Hut, Celebration Cinema and the brand new Quaker Steak and Lube for their participation in providing both delicious and various food options for the night!

The Saints’ Squad was in full effect too on the look for those with school spirit who were entered into a drawing for cash prizes from Pepsi. Our environmental student organizations were committed to also make an impact on our event and offered recycling and composting of all of the refuse that was present during the event. With all that we provided, we composted everything and provided our cans and bottles to AQ Service Learning for their funding of Alternative Spring Break trips. We left the event with only ONE bag of garbage. Amazing AQ! 

A live performance from southern-rock act, Annabelle Road, started things off and set the tone for a great, interactive evening. The Quaker Steak and Lube provided an Atomic Wing eating contest between sets. Congrats to Rae LaVoie for coming in first!  The soulful sounds of Chinua Hawk amped up the crowd before we began the long-anticipated AQ IDOL finals.  Both acts tweeted and facebooked that their experience at AQ was the best they had had in at least five years. They also commented to AQPB that AQ can definitely show other schools how an event like Wake Up People is done.


What a fabulous night!


The next Wake Up People is scheduled to support the AQ 125th Anniversary. We are eager to plan a great event celebrating our past while we plan for our future!

Wigs for Kids

By: Monica Rischiotto

Wigs 4 Kids

“Our heroes,” this is how Maggie Varney, CEO and founder of the Michigan non-profit Wigs 4 Kids, describes the children ages 3-18 who come to her organization completely or on the verge of being hairless, and are seeking a regained sense of self esteem and dignity through the gift of a donated wig.

Wigs 4 Kids started in 2005. The organization accepts donations of hair, 10 inches in length or more. The hair is cleaned by Varney and her staff and I then sent to a manufacturer in Los Angeles to be made into a wig for a Wigs 4 Kids applicant.  Because there are no catalogs for children’s wigs, the clients are asked to find a picture of a hairstyle that they like. Varney’s team then makes a mold of the child’s head which is sent to the manufacturer, and over the past nearly 7 years, over 500 wigs have been made for children throughout Michigan.

It all began when Varney owned a salon and was a volunteer with Look Good Feel Better, a program run by the American Cancer Society for adults who have experienced hair loss due to cancer. After assisting with the program for twelve years, Varney remembers, “I realized that there were no programs like this for children. At one point I had a sixteen year old in class, who really should have been 18 but I let him come, and I just thought there needs to be something else out there that can help these kids.”

It was not long after that Varney began making contacts, holding fundraisers, and ultimately establishing an office in St. Claire Shores in efforts to create wig resources for children experiencing hair loss. She would soon discover, however, that the one 16 year old in her class in need of a wig was by no means a rarity, and the awareness that was to come would be what Varney describes as “shocking.”

Once Wigs 4 Kids was up and running, even in its first years, Varney received calls from throughout the United States, including Hawaii and Alaska, with individuals experiencing the same problem- there are wig stores for adults, but nothing of the sorts for children. Today the calls are coming from as far as Romania, Germany, and Iraq, with Varney explaining that one of the most surprising realizations of working for this cause is that, “ this is not a local problem, is not a national problem, it’s  a universal problem that children experiencing hair loss have limited to no absolutely no resources.”

While 65% of Wigs 4 Kids recipients experience hair loss due to cancer, the list of hair loss causes is extensive, including everything from skin related diseases such as lupus and alopecia, to trichotillomania, a form of tourette, that leaves children pulling their hair out, to anything as simple as trauma. “We just had a girl who saw her father die in a boating accident and she began pulling her hair out,” explained Varney.

And although Varney’s original vision for Wigs 4 Kids has greatly expanded, there are more challenges to be tackled. For example, Varney stated it is not the shortage of donated hair that holds them back from making more wigs, but the lack of resources to utilize the hair. “We have to outsource to LA, it is the only place that will make us these wigs, and the funding is not always there to meet the existing needs,” said Varney.

All the resources that Wigs 4 Kids offers, including the wig, all of the shampoo and upkeep supplies they receive, as well as the self-esteem, art, and tutoring programs and classes offered through the newly established Wellness Program, are completely free. In addition, many of the clients come back to get their hair done or have a makeover for events like prom and senior pictures. Again, completely free of charge.
Varney is currently working with Michigan representative Dale Kildee in efforts to convince insurance companies to cover at least part of the costs for children purchasing wigs. There are currently only 7 states in which insurance companies do this for adults, none cover even a fraction of the cost for children.

“Unlike Locks for Loves, another great non-profit making wigs for kids, we charge absolutely nothing. The founders of that organization have a research focus, so the money they raise from the wigs they sell goes towards finding cures for alopecia. Our focus, however, is not on research but making an impact on the social, emotional, and psychological lives of the kids we are serving,” said Varney.

This impact as Varney explains, is invaluable. “It is amazing the effects of hair loss on a child. They isolate themselves and become withdrawn, they refuse to go to school. Kids who were getting A’s and B’s drop down to C’s and D’s, and the list goes on,” said Varney. Furthermore, her first hand experience has opened her eyes even more to the realities that diseases like cancer, “ affect not one person, but families, support systems, and entire communities. And we want to provide a source of hope. And it is an honor and a privilege to serve these children and their families.”

On April 19th from 7-9pm in the Regina Hall lounge, local hair stylists from Capelli Salon and Easttown Salon will be providing free haircuts to members of the Aquinas Community willing to donate 10 inches or more their hair to Wigs 4 Kids. All are welcome and encouraged to participate.

Model Arab League 2011

By: Margaret Bennett

Model Arab League 2011

This spring, Aquinas College students had the opportunity to participate in an Arab League simulation held at Grand Valley. This was the thirteenth time Aquinas had a group of students participate and this conference was especially successful. This spring, students from Aquinas represented three nations: Comoros, Djibouti, and Tunisia.


At the conference, students are broken into committees. There are one or two students in each committee, representing each country. The committees are: Environmental, Palestinian Affairs, Political Affairs, Social Affairs, and the Joint Defense Council. The opportunity to focus on Saudi Arabia’s specific views regarding Palestine or the Jordanian view on environmental affairs makes this conference unique, and provides an educational experience hard to achieve anywhere else.

The simulation this year was especially heated due to the recent unrest in the Middle Eastern region. Many nations being represented at the conference had to represent nations that were going through revolts, and protests against their government. This made the conference more difficult, but lots of fun. This spring students were assigned a “crisis” assignment, which has not happened in years past. This assignment was to write a report of what was happening in the Middle East and as a committee to collaborate with other nations to establish a collective response.


The conference this year was one of the most successful because of the revolts and protests going on in the Middle East. As a participant I think this made the conference more interactive, and more unique, because every nation had an opinion about what was going on

Model Arab League 2011

and it brought discussion and debate to a new level, with every nation responding very differently to the uprisings.


Aquinas brought home one award, won by Joe Spaulding, who represented Tunisia in the Social Affairs Committee. Dr. Roger J. Durham and Dr. Heather Brown were the Model Arab League advisors for the conference.

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