Syracuse University Magazine

Christina Simmons

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Dedicated to Helping

This summer, Christina Simmons ’10 tutored a teenage girl with autism, taking her strawberry picking and kayaking and helping her communicate nonverbally by typing. “It was challenging and some days it was frustrating, but overall it was a rewarding experience,” says Simmons, who first taught children with disabilities last spring as a student teacher at an inclusive preschool. “I love working with children, and I want to be a school psychologist. It’s an amazing field because you provide education for everyone, regardless of disability or intellectual level, and I think everyone should have that access.” 

Simmons, a psychology and Spanish major who is fluent in Spanish and Polish, has long fostered a love of helping others. From her first days at SU, she’s been active in the Alpha Phi Omega community service fraternity, the St. Thomas More Campus Ministry, and Habitat for Humanity. She has traveled twice to New Orleans to help gut and rebuild houses in the Ninth Ward, the section hardest hit by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Although the intense work lasted from morning until night, Simmons says it was an unforgettable experience. “I’ve helped people in settings I’ve been comfortable in, like hospitals and homeless shelters, but this was going out and doing something substantial in a different environment,” she says. “It was the nit and grit of helping people.” 

Her caring nature led to a summer internship at Exceptional Family Resources, an organization that provides services for people with developmental disabilities. Through the organization, Simmons developed her knowledge of working with children with disabilities and what resources to use to help them. “A lot of the training and motivation behind my tutoring job came from my internship,” she says. 

One of her proudest achievements was being named a Remembrance Scholar, a prestigious honor awarded to only 35 seniors a year in memory of the Syracuse students who were among those killed in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103. While conducting research about the tragedy, Simmons was inspired by the work of one victim to establish a toy library in Syracuse. Toy libraries allow children to take a toy home for a week or so, and then return it for a new one. Simmons is still finalizing a location, but she expects the volunteer-run toy library to be completed before she graduates in May. “With the current economy, it’s difficult for kids to have access to toys,” she says. “I want to give all kids that access, regardless of their economic situation.” 

Simmons, who serves as a resident advisor in Haven Hall, hopes to teach in Spain or join AmeriCorps, a program in which people dedicate a year to helping those living in poverty in the United States. She then plans to enter graduate school to continue moving toward her career goals. Meanwhile, she’s making the most of her final year as an SU student. “I love the campus, all the different programs, and the people here are incredible,” she says. “The whole experience has been amazing.” —Lindsay Stein