By Ruchama Benhamou, Managing Editor
Each month, the YU Observer aims to highlight one club available to the YU undergraduate community. For the November 2023 edition, the YU Observer is highlighting the Beren Eye to Eye Chapter.
Disclaimer: The author of this article is the Vice President of the board for this club.
Club Name: The Beren Eye to Eye Chapter
Head(s): Regina Mezistrano, President
Relevant Campus(es): Beren
What is your club’s mission statement?: According to the organization, “Eye to Eye’s mission is to improve the educational experience and outcomes of neurodiverse young people, while engaging them and their allies in the movement for a more equitable and inclusive society.” More specifically, the Beren Chapter of Eye to Eye partners with the Shefa School, a K-8th grade pluralistic Jewish community school, in a once a week volunteership. Through the organization’s tools and workshops, we pair individually with students to create an inclusive environment for our mentees, where their neurodiversity is expressed creatively through art and conversation. Each week, we work with different art supplies and create a project through collective collaboration between mentors and mentees. We then discuss what we learned about ourselves and our unique perspective on our experience together.
Why is this club important?: Our club is important because, through Eye to Eye, we spread awareness to combat anti-ableism, as well as advocate for the beauty in how different people learn in unique and amazing ways. To work together with such bright mentees who should not be defined by their disability is a true privilege. Intelligence is not binary, and it is not rigid or exact. There are multiple forms of intelligence that are so humbly expressed through how each mentee views and participates in the art room. Each has such a beautifully unique form of creative expression, and we must learn to celebrate those differences. One in five people have a learning difference. Difference is not subordinate. It is not lower or less than. It is distinctive and singularly special. It is time to uplift our communities and include all methods of learning, because true growth can only be achieved through acceptance and inclusion of differences.
What inspired you to get involved in/start the club?: Regina Mezistrano: When I was younger, I attended a school that did their best to support me and fellow students who learn differently. So when I heard about Eye to Eye and the possibility of partnering with the Shefa School, I was so excited. I wished I could have had these programs in a Jewish environment, and now I can provide it for these kids. It is so fulfilling and meaningful to create something my younger self didn’t have.
What are some plans you have for this semester/future semesters?: Every Friday, we walk together to the Shefa School and lead a different art project for the day. Through the Eye to Eye workbooks, we speak about our learning differences and community agreements to provide an inclusive space for mentors and mentees alike. We help each mentee individually to complete their projects and ask questions along the way to learn more about each other. One week, we created flying paper objects (airplanes, snowballs, UFOs) and had a flight competition to see who could reach the farthest distance. Our mentees loved it and we all had so much fun!
What is your advice to someone looking to get involved on campus?: If you wish to get involved with the Beren Eye to Eye Chapter, you can easily contact us and join our group chat! There are also posters everywhere around campus to join our program!
Anything else to say about your club: We would really love for you to join us!