As for the speaker, education professor Kathleen Harris knew just who to ask. After she met Kurt Kondrich and his family in Washington DC, Harris knew his experiences and message would be perfect for the event.
Kondrich has become an advocate for Early Intervention after raising his daughter Chloe—a child born with Down’s syndrome.
A retired Pittsburgh City Police Officer, Kondrich lived by the mantra to serve and protect. He finds his work as a husband, father and Early Intervention advocate to follow those same words.
“I was so inspired by his passion and seeing his, and his family’s, positive attitudes about the cards they were dealt,” said sophomore Emily Sangermano.
Because 85 percent of a child’s brain development takes place from birth to age five, Kondrich hopes to emphasize the importance of quality education in those crucial years. “You wire the house before you put up the walls right? It’s incredibly difficult to get past those walls once they’re up,” said Kondrich.
“Kurt truly showed his concern for children with disabilities and the importance of including every child in classrooms,” said freshman Chelsea Pence.
In his presentation, Kondrich told of the struggles and triumphs through Chloe’s life. Now at the age of eight, she is at a third-grade reading level, participating in their local baseball league, and has also become somewhat of an advocate herself. “So often they’re excluded from entering the world,” said Kondrich. Now she accompanies her father when visiting senators, authority figures and politicians. Much of his work requires visits and petitions to them to raise awareness and money for programs that make a difference.
“He made it clear that everyone can make a difference and can get in touch with
senators and other authority figures,” said senior Jessica Orlowski. “He showed the group exactly how to go about making a difference.”
Kondrich likened his experiences to that of “A Christmas Carol.” It takes a child and determined people to make a difference and melt the hearts of the Scrooges in politics. Once those in authority take action and care about the children, the world can be a brighter place.
“You want to know what our greatest resource in Pennsylvania is? It’s our children,” said Kondrich.
Students and board members alike were reminded of the power of children and their education. They were also reminded to contact their politicians and congressmen for the benefit of future teachers and students.
“We recognized, as a university community, that early childhood is where our future begins,” said Harris. “In addition, we re-committed ourselves to ensuring that each and every child experiences the type of early environment—at home, school and in the community that will promote early learning.”
The students present were from St. Vincent College, Carlow University, University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg, Westmoreland County Community College, Greensburg Education Center, and SHU.