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A Life Devoted to Lifting Others

Jon Gilroy '16, who lives with cerebral palsy, motivates student audiences to overcome adversity and uncertainty to reach their potential.

Jon Gilroy has developed dialogues that cover basic issues of identity and how to love, appreciate and embrace oneself.

ALBANY, N.Y. (January 20, 2016) — UAlbany senior and Michael T. Carmen '84 Mentoring Scholarship recipient Jon Gilroy is well on his way to attaining his “big dream:” a career in motivational speaking.

The social welfare major visits elementary and secondary schools to talk with students, often applying his own life experiences. “I spoke at one school because a student there has cerebral palsy,” said Jon, who lives with the disorder and uses a wheelchair.

The Pleasant Valley, NY native spoke at Vanderbilt University in 2014 and also shares his wisdom at UAlbany. “I spoke with a family here whose child, a first-semester freshman, was struggling with the transition to college. They seemed comfortable afterward, and I felt good because I was helping someone else.”

A life of helping was Jon’s goal when he first came to Albany to major in social welfare, pointing toward a career as a counselor for substance abuse and depression. Motivational speaking then became a major thrust in his life. “I may enter the speaking circuit after completing master’s studies in a year,” said Jon, who will receive his bachelor’s in May. “Or I may work three years in a supervised clinical setting, become clinically certified and start my own practice.”

A former Residential Life peer educator, he always looks forward to doing more on campus. “I’m working with Ekow King, the director of Intercultural Student Engagement, to develop programming surrounding the creation of dialogues on the issues of culture, race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, ability and religion,” said Jon.

“I’ve also had the pleasure of working with Courtney D'Allaird, the assistant director for Intercultural Student Engagement and coordinator of the Gender and Sexuality Resource Center, to create LGBTQ+ inclusive spaces across campus.” For his efforts, Jon was named one of the top 14 LGBTQ+ student leaders in the country by the national educational organization Campus Pride.

In all of this work, Jon has developed dialogues, which, he said, “cover basic issues of identity and learning to love, appreciate and embrace oneself.”

He has also found time to work with the Omega Phi Beta sorority and Iota Phi Theta fraternity, speaking at their events to help others understand misconceptions surrounding disability and what it means to be a person living with a disability.

At UAlbany, Jon says he has enjoyed “a relatively independent life.” He found the School of Social Welfare’s reputation well-earned and its “very competitive” academic offerings nourishing. “The professors are great,” he said. “They’ve all been very accessible to me, whenever I needed extra help.”

“Overall, there are so many academic-support services on the campus. And my work in peer advisement exposed me to a lot of different outlets too.”

Since his freshman year, he has received extra support from Michael Carmen, his scholarship’s founder and an equity portfolio manager at Wellington Management in Boston. “I can call him and say: ‘Can you help me? I need to know how I’m going to tackle this,’” said Jon. “He always offers excellent advice.”

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