Gabriel Forsyth-Korzeniewicz, Economics, Class of 2012

Throughout his life, Forsyth-Korzeniewicz found himself asking questions about identity and the inequalities that result from identity. Consequently, he was always involved with organizations that work with people who have developmental and intellectual disabilities. In high school, Forsyth-Korzeniewicz was a one-on-one mentor for families who have children with autism. Today, he seeks out more opportunities to be involved with disability rights advocacy.

As an economics major, Forsyth-Korzeniewicz has deepened his understanding of the ways in which  developmentally and intellectually disabled people are excluded from society. He explains that on a theoretical level, he is now able to understand how disability adversely affects one’s financial compensation and participation in the economy. He is also aware of the lack of data supporting this correlation and he hopes to use his skills to help develop this data in the future. Forsyth-Korzeniewicz intends to use this information to address employment accessibility, which is extremely challenging for people with disabilities. His interest in this work is guided by two main questions: “How can people with disabilities become independent?” and “What is the extent to which they can be as productive and effective as any other person?” By blending his two passions – economics and disability rights advocacy – into his studies at Reed, Forsyth-Korzeniewicz says he has been able to become a much more engaged and fulfilled student.

Forsyth-Korzeniewicz has also taken his passions beyond his academic studies at Reed to more extensive engagement in the school. In the summer of 2011, Forsyth-Korzeniewicz received one of the McGill Lawrence Summer Internship Awards. With the award, he went to Accra, Ghana to work at the Autism Center. The Autism Center is a community support and education center for children with autism founded barely a decade by a mother of a child with autism. Forsyth-Korzeniewicz provided daily support in the classroom helping children learn social, communication, and life skills. He also helped the children put together a talent show for the end of the summer. “I felt supported in looking at questions of disabilities. Reed has helped me to understand these issues even though it may be lacking in direct education about them,” he says.

With his appreciation of Reed’s support, Forsyth-Korzeniewicz hopes to give back to the community by providing more education about and support for people with disabilities. He explains that although it may not be Reed’s intent, students with developmental and intellectual disabilities are categorically excluded from attending Reed. For this reason, Forsyth-Korzeniewicz, along with two other Reed students, created the Reed Disability Advocacy and Outreach (RDAO) program. RDAO’s goal is to provide a unified voice and support for students with disabilities at Reed. Forsyth-Korzeniewicz is currently trying to organize a disability summer camp at Reed, to set up a job fair, and to bring more education about these issues into the community. He says, “Reed is filled with socially-conscious, intelligent and skilled people who want to do good, but disability often doesn’t come to mind when they think about social issues. This is a shame considering all the resources Reed students have.”

Forsyth-Korzeniewicz is also working on a tech-start up that will release software for the autistic community that detects emotion in the voice. He is also involved with: The Riot!, the Sprout Festival, and Autistic Children’s Activities Program (ACAP).

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