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!

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.

Remembering Carol Beard, UOD Founder

Carol Beard PhotosmUnderstanding Our Differences mourns the recent passing of our beloved founder, Carol Beard, and celebrates the many achievements of a life well-lived. Carol had the amazing ability to always fill those who met her with a sense of being loved and valued. She made a difference in the world each and every day that she was in it. Carol devoted her life to serving others. She was a visionary advocate for the rights and needs of people with developmental disabilities.

We would like to share reflections about Carol from our Board and Advisory Board members, and friends:

“On this peaceful, quiet day up here in Gloucester, I am staring at the cove and fog, thinking of Carol.  I was so saddened to hear of her death.  In her quiet, unassuming way, she was a particularly strong leader and voice for  community (both for those with differing abilities and for Newton too).  She impacted so many people, most of whom had no idea who she was. 

“First and foremost were multiple generations of children (and their parents) who have gone through the Newton schools  and participated in  UOD. Back in the 1970’s, when MA and federal law first mandated the inclusion of all children in public schools, Carol felt the need to do what she could to make sure her sons, and all other children with disabling conditions, were understood and appreciated by their peers in  school. Through the volunteer organization she developed with a group of like-minded friends, children learned to look beyond the superficial differences between people, to see and appreciate their special qualities that make them who they are.  They came to understand the obstacles their peers faced everyday and to realize they were more the same than different.  Taking this a step further, they also learn to become advocates.  These have been lasting lessons.  I see them continuing to play out with my children, who are now in their 40’s.  Parents who got involved in the program have been similarly impacted.  UOD also brought the City of Newton together creating community; a way for parents to become involved in their children’s classrooms and schools, a community who realized the importance of UOD’s message and were even willing to rally on its behalf when the program was facing elimination by previous school administrations. The project Carol began has a continuing ripple effect beyond what she could have imagined.  UOD has expanded beyond its impact in Newton to communities throughout the Commonwealth, and is gearing itself up to do that on a much larger scale as it gains a digital presence.  Carol was also a tireless advocate for her sons and people with cognitive challenges. 

“My thoughts go out to her family and to all those she touched.  I am proud to have known her.  I know I am preaching to the choir but her leadership is even more valued in the current climate.” -Fran Osten

“Carol was indeed one of those rare and special people whose energy, creativity, determination and positivity made such a lasting impact on all of our lives and  the thousands of families in Newton and beyond who have been reached by UOD.  She will be missed.” -Carol Kanin

“In addition to all she did for her family, the entire UOD community and Newton at large, she was an incredible warm, generous and appreciative person one on one. I will always remember that about her.” -Barb Day

“I am so sad that Carol has passed away. Carol was my mentor and an inspiration. I hope that we all help to ensure that Forest and Lincoln Beard feel the support of the amazing UOD network.” -Beth Mendel

“Carol was my mentor, also. I observed her whole program at Oak Hill in order to be very prepared before I started it at Countryside. I learned from the best! She was supportive, kind, and understanding, but she always remained very humble. Carol started UOD, and her achievements and gifts are monumental. She was a dear friend, and I will miss her.” -Linda Hiller
“Carol was a very special visionary and leader who along with all of you from the past and present have made such an impact on Newton and beyond. I feel fortunate that I learned so much as a parent volunteer in the 80’s and 90’s and have had the opportunity to be part of the organization Carol founded.” -Marcia Herrmann
“I write to express loving memory of our founding leader, Carol Beard. Working with her to help grow Understanding Handicaps in its early days was a blessed opportunity which I cherish. She was, and will always be, an angel among us.” -Bonnie Rosenberg
“In memory of Carol Beard who brought light to Newton and way beyond.” -Anne and Bob Larner

Citizens Bank Names UOD a Champion in Action®

We are thrilled to announce that Understanding Our Differences has been named a 2020 Champion in Action® for Inclusion & Equality by Citizens Bank and necn.

Click here to view a news clip about this award: https://www.necn.com/on-air/as-seen-on/understanding-our-differences-works-with-students/2223121/

The award includes $35,000 in unrestricted funding, as well as promotional and volunteer support for “the organization’s outstanding work to educate children to see the whole person and better understand various disabilities.”

Champions in Action is part of Citizens Helping Citizens, the bank’s initiative designed to help local communities prosper. It provides support for nonprofit organizations to recognize their contributions to communities throughout Massachusetts.

The Inclusion & Equality award is given to an organization that addresses the many factors that contribute to discrimination and inequality, and that ensures all perspectives and diverse viewpoints are heard and contribute to innovation and success.

As a Champion in Action, Understanding Our Differences will receive: a $35,000 unrestricted contribution from Citizens Bank; media coverage from necn, including features and public service announcements; volunteer support from Citizens Bank colleagues; complimentary membership to the Massachusetts Nonprofit Network; promotional support highlighting the organization in Citizens Bank branches; and exposure on the Citizens Bank and necn websites.

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