The Arc Lexington’s CEO Shaloni Winston Receives Honorary Doctorate from Maria College of Albany; Delivers Commencement Speech to Class of 2023
Winston’s Message to the Graduates Includes a Powerful Call to Be “Champions”
Gloversville, NY – Shaloni Winston, Executive Director and CEO of The Arc Lexington and founder of Transitions, had the distinct honor of receiving an honorary doctorate and delivering the commencement address to the class of 2023 during Maria College’s commencement ceremony on Sunday, May 21, at the Empire State Plaza Convention Center in Albany.
In bestowing the Doctor of Humane Lettersto Winston, Maria College recognized her leadership at The Arc Lexington, her 30-year career in the field of working with people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and her work as founder of Transitions, a program of The Arc Lexington that supports teens and young adults with autism and other learning differences with college, career and independence.
Winston said, “It is truly an honor to be a recipient of an honorary doctorate from Maria College and provide the commencement address. I am grateful to President Ortale, the Board of Trustees, the faculty, staff, and students of Maria College for recognizing my work in helping those with neurodiversity succeed in college, careers, and life. I have been blessed to be in a role at The Arc Lexington, to ensure that we empower and support individuals with developmental disabilities to reach their full potential, and that includes pursuing higher education and fulfilling lives.Our work at The Arc Lexington is about creating a world where everyone can achieve their dreams, regardless of their abilities. Our entire family of employees, families, and the men and women we support, come together united in our mission to create a more inclusive and compassionate world. That is why I am honored to accept this recognition on behalf of our entire team at The Arc Lexington.”
In her commencement address to the Maria College graduates, Winston shared the deeply personal story of her daughter’s journey from being diagnosed with Turner Syndrome and non-verbal learning differences as a young teen, and the challenges and barriers that she has overcome to earn her bachelor’s degree, becoming a licensed master social worker, and currently working on her dissertation for her own doctorate degree from the State University of New York at Albany. It is her daughter’s journey, as well as her own journey as the mother of someone with a disability,that led Winston to create Transitions. From her speech, Winston said, “Through my daughter’s diagnosis and journey, I became even more aware of the needs of others with autism and other neuro-divergent challenges. Throughout her high school and college years we needed help and support and didn’t know where to find them. Together we made it work but we learned that others were faced with similar challenges and so we created Transitions. We help students learn the skills they need to succeed and to become a part of their community. But they can’t do it alone. They need their community; just like you and me.”
Winston also called on the Maria College graduates, and really to us all, to be champions for those who need it most. “My daughter’s journey has taught me something profound. It is through the presence of champions in our lives that we can achieve the impossible. She was fortunate to have one or two champions at every phase of her life who believed in her potential when others doubted. These champions offered guidance, support, encouragement and opportunities that propelled her forward.”
“Each one of you has the power to lift others up, to be a guiding light, an ally, to be the reason they keep fighting. No matter where life takes you, look around you and reach out to those who face obstacles and provide them with support, a helping hand, encouragement, and belief that they can overcome any challenge. Lift them up when they stumble, celebrate their victories, and empower them to reach their full potential. Being a champion means taking the time to understand the people that may be different from us and supporting them to succeed whether it is in education, employment or just life. It requires us to be patient and compassionate and be willing to learn from those experiences that differ from ours but are not less. It requires us to see their strengths, not just their challenges.” Winston’s commencement speech can be viewed in its entirety at https://youtu.be/ApVWzYFQAlY