Dr. Jen Arnold to Keynote Spring Benefit May 4

UOD is thrilled to announce that Dr. Jen Arnold will be the keynote speaker at our 45th anniversary celebration on Thursday evening, May 4 at UMass at Mount Ida in Newton. For more information about the Spring Benefit and to purchase tickets, click here.

Dr. Arnold is a physician who is Board Certified in Neonatal Medicine and is currently the Program Director of Immersive Design Systems at Boston Children’s Hospital. She is both a passionate neonatologist and a healthcare simulation educator.

Dr. Arnold stands at 3 foot 2 and has a rare type of dwarfism. She and her husband Bill (and their children Will and Zoey) were featured on TLC’s docu-drama, The Little Couple, which followed their personal and professional lives. The show proved to be an invaluable method to break down barriers and educate people around the country about people with disabilities.

UOD’s Growth Beyond Newton

UOD is growing! We are actively continuing our expansion into schools and districts beyond Newton as well as sustaining existing programs in outside schools and districts. Here’s just a sample of this activity:

  • Ongoing programs (some expanding): Lexington, Arlington, North Andover, Hopkinton and Manchester Essex Regional School District.
  • New pilot programs: North Reading (see photo) and Melrose.
  • Under consideration (returning to UOD or new): Acton-Boxborough, Boston Curley School K-8 School, Pine Hill School – Sherborn, Southborough, Sudbury and Wayland.
  • UOD participated in the disability awareness event “Together We Play” at the Sudbury Goodnow Library on Sunday, October 23, which attracted a large audience of families and was very successful.

Newton Program Update

Program presentations have begun in Newton’s 15 elementary schools! Schools are returning to in-person programming as students are more engaged away from screens. This year many more UOD presentations will be in person, with guest speakers and activities in person as well. Here is other news:

  • UOD’s Allergic Conditions unit has been adapted to be presented to 2nd graders, so that we can introduce our content to younger students.
  • Parent volunteers are back – serving in the role of School Liaisons, who assist teachers with delivery of the program including recruiting and training volunteers, helping with activities, and facilitating Q&A with the speaker. 
  • More volunteers are needed to help in the classroom with UOD units. If you are interested, please contact Newton Program Managers Lisa DePalma and Punam Sharma. Your help is welcome!

Executive Function in Children: Webinar Feb. 9th

Understanding Our Differences is pleased to invite you to join us on Thursday, February 9th at 7:00pm for this special evening webinar on Executive Function in Children with Kristen Jacobsen, MS, CCC-SLP. We are presenting this program as part of a series offering expert advice to parents, caregivers and teachers about common challenges for children. All are welcome. Pre-registration is required at this link.

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Seeking PT Admin Assistant

Understanding Our Differences (UOD) www.UnderstandingOurDifferences.org is seeking a highly-motivated individual who is enthusiastic about supporting the success of our disability awareness education nonprofit. The Administrative Assistant will support in particular the work of our Director of Development and our Operations Manager, with a focus on assisting fundraising efforts.

Key skills requirements:

  • Knowledge of and strong experience using Salesforce is required.
  • Knowledge of and experience using Constant Contact preferred.
  • Knowledge of Microsoft Office, especially Excel.
  • Associate’s degree or significant relevant experience; a Bachelor’s degree is preferred.
  • Strong attention to detail and accuracy with spreadsheets and other documents.
  • Able to compute numbers and percentages, and comfortable working with data including tracking event registrations.
  • Knowledge of and experience with social media an asset.
  • Excellent communication skills, tact and diplomacy, and ability work well as part of a team.
  • Appreciation for our disability awareness education mission.

Terms of employment:  $15 – $17 per hour, approximately 10 hours per week, very flexible year-round schedule with school vacation weeks off, work from home with occasional in-office help needed (hybrid position).

How to apply:  Submit a resume and cover letter (required) to [email protected]. No phone calls.

Advisory Board Member Receives Award from Patriots

We have 06. Nathan Persampieri - Understanding Our Differences (002)wonderful news to share about a special award being given to a member of our Advisory Board, Nathan Persampieri. The New England Patriots have announced that Nathan is their 2021 Patriots Difference Maker of the Week for his commitment to Understanding Our Differences. This award recognizes volunteers who provide unique service to their communities. The Kraft Family and the Patriots Foundation will also present a $5,000 donation to UOD as part of this recognition.

In addition to serving on our Advisory Board as an active disability self-advocate and ambassador, Nathan has interned with UOD and helped to organize several disability awareness events and activities.

“I first got involved with Understanding our Differences back in 2017, when I created two panels for high school students,” said Nathan. “That was one of the many ways I gave back. I have helped the nonprofit out ever since. I love what they do, I believe in their mission, and I’m glad to be a part of it.”

Congratulations, Nathan!

In Memory: Suzanne Freudberg

SuzanneUnderstanding Our Differences’ treasured administrative assistant, Suzanne Freudberg, passed away unexpectedly on Saturday September 25th. She leaves her husband Jeffrey, and her three children, Jeremy, Jake and Rose.

Click here to make a donation to Understanding Our Differences in Suzanne’s memory, per the family’s request.

Suzanne was born March 7, 1959 in Mount Kisco, NY. Her early childhood was spent in northern New Jersey, her junior high and high school years in Mountaindale, NY. She was a 1977 graduate of Fallsburg Central High School in Sullivan County, NY, and a 1981 graduate of Brandeis University in Waltham, MA. She resided in Newton since then.

Suzanne’s life and the impact she had on her family, friends and the world around her cannot be fully captured here. Those who knew her, loved her. Suzanne has been described by her friends at Understanding Our Differences as intelligent, diligent, and positive. She was always willing to lend a hand with any task, was a wizard with data and Salesforce, and loved staffing registration at every event, so that she could greet guests with friendship and care.

Suzanne will be very missed.

Significant Gift Received from Ann O’Bar Trust

Ann O'BarWe are thrilled to share that we have received a most generous donation from the Angelina Merenda (Ann) O’Bar Trust and are the grateful beneficiaries of her wonderful legacy of giving.

We were contacted by her friend and a co-trustee of the Ann O’Bar Trust, Melanie Mitchell, about a potential gift to support our program that focuses on understanding classmates with differences. Melanie shared that Ann loved her great-nephew Michael who had disabilities and was aware of his parents’ fears about how he would be treated by other children. A disability awareness program that focuses on inclusion and kindness would have helped allay his parents’ concerns, making Understanding Our Differences a truly meaningful fit with the life and priorities of Ann O’Bar.

Angelina Marie Merenda (Ann) O’Bar was born on March 1, 1935 in Brooklyn, New York. Ann met and married Jesse R. O’Bar, Jr. on October 27, 1956 and followed him to his hometown of Chickasha, Oklahoma, where they built a life filled with family, friends, and deep involvement with their community.

An outstanding early childhood professional, Ann worked for over 45 years in the educational field. Her first teaching position was in 1967 working with kindergarten Head Start children in Chickasha Public Schools. She continued her work with Head Start for over 20 years, teaching, training, becoming Director of Washita Valley Head Start, President of the Oklahoma Head Start Association and a longtime member of the National Head Start Association Board in Washington, DC.

Following her work with Head Start, beginning in 1987, Ann then served as project director/associate director at the University of Oklahoma’ s Center for Child and Family Development and was named director emeritus for the center. Here she developed the Growing Up Strong program for classroom use with young children. She also served as a member of the Oklahoma Department of Human Service’s Child Care Advisory Committee for over 30 years to improve services to young children and their families.

Throughout her career Ann was an exemplary consultant and advocate for early childhood education at local, state, national, and international levels. She established the Merenda-O’Bar Scholarship for students who wanted to be teachers of young children. She was honored with the Outstanding Service Award and was a long time, active, and honored member of Delta Kappa Gamma.

She passed peacefully on February 22, 2020 while living at Legends Memory Care in South Oklahoma City.

We deeply appreciate the Ann O’Barr Trust’s most generous donation supporting our program that fosters respect and inclusion for people of all abilities, and this unique opportunity to continue her legacy of dedication to education of young children.

UOD Program Goes Online

As we look ahead to hopeful news about vaccinations for Covid-19 and the gradual return to a more normal work and school life, we would like to keep you updated about Understanding Our Differences’ current activities.
At a time when so many parents worry about the urgent need for understanding, inclusion and connection, UOD has launched a full schedule of disability awareness presentations to third, fourth, and fifth grade students in all 15 public elementary schools in Newton, MA, plus the Distance Learning Academy. UOD staff members are delivering unit presentations virtually in a Zoom webinar format, with guest speakers for each unit.
Although we can’t see and hear the students in the webinar format used in Newton, we love seeing their questions and comments, which they type into the Q&A box. Nothing speaks more about the ways students connect with our guest speakers with disabilities than comments like: You’re so cool; You’re really talented; and We like the same things!
Our first Zoom webinar presentation was Blindness and Low Vision, for third graders at Cabot Elementary School. One third grade teacher let us know that “the students loved the presentation this morning. The guest speaker was phenomenal.”
Lexington Public Schools has completed three virtual unit presentations with UOD’s assistance across all 6 elementary schools in their district. We will work with them to present an additional three units district-wide in the spring.
And the Curley School K-8 School in the Boston Public Schools presented our Deafness and Hard of Hearing unit just this week! They used a Zoom meeting format, so we could see some of the students, who were really engaged and curious.

Virtual Community Gathering A Success

Our first Virtual Community Gathering on October 4th was a great success! We honored dedicated leaders Barb Day and Ellen Cohen-Kaplan, remembered our beloved founder Carol Beard, and shared how UOD is staying relevant to today’s changed models for education.

We are meeting the challenge of these difficult times and are excited to offer our newly updated virtual programs to students this school year.

As our Leadership Award recipient, Ellen Cohen-Kaplan stated, “Elementary school students are at the prime age to learn about how to be advocates and friends instead of seeing these classmates as the other. It’s up to us to keep this groundbreaking work going.”

Click here to view the video of Sunday evening’s program.

Click here and scroll down to read the event program book . It contains so many wonderful tributes from friends as well as ads from our valued sponsors. 

As always, we welcome your feedback and new or continuing involvement with Understanding Our Differences.

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