By Dalton Karwacki
A grant to fund the creation of facilities to assist disabled students should help the University provide an important service to the Rider community, according to Director of Services for Students with Disabilities Barbara Blandford.
With the funds, two rooms will be set up in the Vona Annex on the Lawrenceville campus. The first room will serve as a study area, group meeting space and a place for students with disabilities to relax. The second room will be used for proctoring exams to disabled students and helping educate the students about new technologies that can help them cope with their disabilities.
Blandford said that the new rooms will be extremely useful in working with students with disabilities.
“I think it will be a tremendous help,” she said. “It’s something that we don’t have right now, a dedicated space for this type of thing.”
The $50,000 donation that made the project possible was made by The Jonas Fund. The fund was set up by the family of Jonas Penn, a Rider student who committed suicide in November 2002 after battling with depression. According to the fund’s website, it seeks to help students with special needs receive a quality education.
“The Jonas Fund was established to promote the mental health well-being of youth and adolescents with special behavioral or emotional needs,” according to the website. “By supporting their educational and training experiences, The Jonas Fund strives to empower youth to achieve more full and rewarding lives.”
According to Blandford, the services provided in these rooms will also be available on the Westminster campus.
“We will also be supporting students at Westminster,” Blandford said. “We will work with them over there, or if they want they can come here to Lawrenceville.”
Blandford said that there is not yet a set time for when the rooms will be available for use, as the final plan for the rooms’ designs has not been completed.
“We haven’t finalized everything yet, so I’m not sure when exactly they’ll be ready,” she said. “It should be sometime next year.”
Dean of Students Anthony Campbell said the fund has been helping ensure that students have access to the medications they need.
“The family, since Jonas’s death, has been supporting Rider by helping students get their medication if they can’t afford it,” he said.
Campbell said that this project was the result of the family’s desire to help even more students.
“What they wanted to do was cast a wider net,” he said. “They wanted to be able to do more for the students.”
Campbell said that the decision was eventually made to construct the new rooms, which will help students in need in a way the University has never been able to in the past.
“We have not had a room with the technology we needed to serve the students in the best way possible,” he said. “This room will provide us with that technology. This is going to be a really important place for our students with learning disabilities.”