As Mimi Mahoney ’14 was gearing up for her senior year, she was also dedicating her time to serving others through an internship with Ontario County ARC, a private, non-profit organization serving more than 900 children and adults with developmental disabilities and their families throughout Ontario County.
“The internship was the best learning experience for me,” says Mahoney, a writing and rhetoric major with a minor in education. “I was able to see just how amazing Ontario ARC’s agency is and I have learned so much from all of the extremely impressive individuals that I was able to work with.”
The opportunity arose out of Mahoney’s close work with the ARC throughout the 2012-2013 school year. While volunteering at one of ARC’s senior programs last fall, Mahoney was introduced to Ann Scheetz, ARC’s executive director, and Donna Auria, the director of community relations at ARC.
Mahoney kept in touch and sought their help in the creation of the organization, Connecting Smiles – a program that connects college students and individuals with developmental and intellectual challenges using art, music, and dance.
Earlier this year, Mahoney also brought Connecting Smiles to the Centennial Center for Leadership’s second annual The Pitch entrepreneurial competition where she was one of four finalists. In addition, she organized the Connecting Smiles festival, an event that brought together more than 80 HWS student-athletes and 100 children with disabilities with developmental and intellectual challenges for a day of fun and games.
“I am so grateful to have met and connected with so many influential people within this past year,” Mahoney says. “I would not have been able to put together the first Connecting Smiles festival last December if it wasn’t for Donna and Ann’s consistent support and guidance.”
Mahoney says she feels fortunate to have been introduced to slew of amazing opportunities through her time at HWS. “A simple class requirement for community service led me to Ontario ARC, which led me to developing Connecting Smiles, which led me to the entire Pitch process,” she says.
Pursuing her passion to teach and simply to “make a difference in someone’s life,” Mahoney jumped at the opportunity to intern with the ARC’s communication and wellness departments. She played an integral role in several of the organization’s major fundraising events, including “The Cubby Chase,” and “Cruisin’ for a Cause.” She also ran an exercise group twice a week.
This year, Mahoney plans to continue developing Connecting Smiles with the help of HWS and the Ontario County ARC.
“I think connecting college students and individuals with disabilities can leave a positive impact on so many people’s lives,” Mahoney says. “It definitely has made an impact on mine!”
At HWS, Mahoney is a member of the William Smith swimming and diving team and the student-run Arts Collective.
For information about Connecting Smiles, visit: www.connectingsmiles.net