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My name is Rebecca, and I recently started as the new Communications Coordinator for Wildwood. I’ll be working alongside Tom Schreck, the Director of Communications, to create social media posts, website content, and photos and videos to use both internally and for outreach.

I grew up just outside of Ithaca, New York, and graduated from the Park School of Communications at Ithaca College, where I received my degree in cinema and photography. About a year ago, I bought a house in Schenectady, where I continued to work remotely as an editor and designer for a marketing company back in the Ithaca area. Eventually I decided to find a job based locally, and I found myself applying to Wildwood.

I'm a big fan of road trips, burritos, National Parks, and the Buffalo Bills. My go-to fun fact about myself is that I grew up in a funeral home. Think My Girl (without the bees), Six Feet Under, or even The Sixth Sense (except less ghosts…as far as I know).

I also grew up around family members and family friends with physical disabilities. The ideas of accessibility, person-first terminology, and overall support are not new to me—however, this position will be my first time working with people with intellectual or developmental disabilities (ID/DD). With this comes the learning of new acronyms, new terminology…a whole lot of new on top of an already new position.

After being offered and accepting the job at Wildwood, I was required to go through orientation, which was spread throughout the course of a week. The experience reminded me of going to college, in some sense, and the “in over my head” feeling from all the newness slowly dissipated the more I participated. The instructors were staff experienced in a particular area—anything from ethics to advocacy to sexuality to points in between; games, activities, and discussion often surrounded the topic at hand.

You know that feeling you get when you eat too much and feel positively stuffed? I think that’s the only equivalent to how my brain felt consuming so many new things—but still, I left each day feeling full of information and excitement for what was going to come.

The thing is, I wasn’t the only one experiencing the feeling of being overwhelmed or unsure. There also seemed to be a whole lot of “new” to the others that were in the courses with me. Two of my classmates were both Direct Support Professionals who trained and gained experience with different local agencies. It seemed to blow their minds with how progressive the implementations and policies at Wildwood were compared to their previous companies. For example, the nuances that come with transportation, serving meals, or deescalating a situation either went untaught at their old jobs, or seemed archaic in comparison to what they learned at orientation.

I think “progressive” is one of the key words I would associate with my first impression and experience at Wildwood. In addition to the apparent difference in the quality of services, I have also learned of situations where Wildwood has gone above and beyond state-mandated duties to better provide for the people that we serve. Another member of my orientation group, Kate Napolitano, was even welcomed in as a new Social Relationships and Sexuality Educator, a position where she will provide counseling, education, and programming about healthy social relationships and sexuality—another new resource in something that I learned is typically a “grey area” in the ID/DD community.

The other noteworthy takeaway from the first week would be compassion. More than once, I found myself astounded by the compassion staff members have for the people we support and their coworkers. It even seemed to extend to all of us in orientation, though it had only been days since receiving our employee contracts. This compassion appears to blend with a respect, patience, and sincerity that I have yet to experience in another workplace.

But that’s another thing I’ve learned, too—Wildwood isn’t just a workplace. It’s a learning experience. It’s a home, a school, a camp. It’s as much the physical buildings as the compassionate, progressive culture that surrounds them and the people you can find within them. It’s a community, and one that I am very excited to be a part of.

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