A single puzzle piece is the national symbol for autism awareness. It is also, the driving force behind the philanthropic work done by CSUN’s volunteer program, Unified We Serve.
According to Autism Speaks, the largest autism science and advocacy organization in the country, it is estimated that one in every 110 children is diagnosed with the disease. Autism is more common than juvenile diabetes, childhood cancer and pediatric AIDS combined.
Since Fall 2010, Unified We Serve has participated, organized and encouraged other campus clubs and organizations to promote awareness and a pro-active mentality to help fundraise for autism.
Justin Weiss, activities coordinator for Unified We Serve, said the organization pursued to support Autism Speaks because one of its founding principals is strength.
“(Autism Speaks) has many components, the main pillar we admire is activism,” Weiss said.
On April 20, Unified We Serve will host a Unified 4 Autism carnival, where they will celebrate the accomplishments of the yearlong campus initiative to learn more about autism. At the event, participants can find live music and food. A group of autistic children is also expected at the event.
Andrew Collard has been the events assistant for Unified We Serve for two years. He said the carnival is one of the few opportunities left (of the semester) to invoke empathy in students, this will be accomplished through games that simulation the disorder.
“The goal is to have students feel something and walk in the shoes of whatever we are serving,” Collard said. “If they understand the issue better, then hopefully they will want to do something about it.”
The carnival, set to take place at Plaza del Sol, is also meant to inform students about the Autism Speaks Walk taking place on April 23 in Pasadena. Unified We Serve is coordinating bus transportation from campus for students interested in participating. Students can register for the carpool online and have until 5 p.m. April 19 to do so.
Both Weiss and Collard agree that student participation is vital in order to spread consciousness about an issue.
“It’s a good way to see people enjoy service together,” Collard said. “It’s an eye-opening experience to get to you understand the different aspects of the disability.”
They encourage the CSUN community to go out to the events.
“This is one of the last opportunities (of the semester) to really make a difference,” Weiss said. “Take the time to do something meaningful.”