New Canaan Resident with Down syndrome focused Her Unique Abilities
to Graduate from College—and Thanks Town.
Local resident, 2018 New Canaan High School graduate and commencement speaker, Molly Cioffi, recently graduated from Lesley University in Cambridge, Massachusetts after successfully completing the Threshold Program for people with diverse learning, developmental, and intellectual disabilities. Molly asserts, “I am on the road to an amazing future and I look forward to living in an apartment in Cambridge with a good friend of mine from school. I have so much to look forward to in my life and I could not have gotten here without help from my amazing family. Thank you so much to everyone who has been with me on the road to making my future beautiful especially the hard work and dedication of staff at STAR, my friends and teachers at West, Saxe and New Canaan high school, Girl Scouts, New Canaan YMCA, and too many more to mention. I couldn’t be more grateful!”
Molly has been a part of STAR, Inc., Lighting the Way since birth in 2000 when she and her family benefited from the Early Childhood Intervention Services offered through the STAR Rubino Family Center. “STAR has been a part of my life since before I can remember. Starting when I was one month old, STAR therapists helped me learn to do what comes easy to most babies but was hard for me, like sitting up, crawling and walking. I also learned to talk with the help of my STAR speech therapist. Some days my parents say that the speech therapist did her job too well!” says Molly jokingly.
In September, Molly will return to Cambridge for alumni “Transition Year” in which she will live in an apartment with a roommate and work a job or internship, all with the support of the Threshold Program. In the meantime, Molly is working with the STAR Employment Services Program that secured employment for her in paid positions at the fashion retailer, Groove, New Canaan and the New Canaan YMCA. Previously, Molly had also worked at Ann Taylor and she interned at New Canaan Nature Center, Senior Center, Elm Street Books and New Canaan Chamber of Commerce.
Judi Anders, Manager of Groove, New Canaan recently said, “When I interviewed Molly for summer help as she came home from college, I asked her the question I ask all my high school and college kids: ‘Working at Groove means being really organized. Tell me what your closet looks like.’ With pure honesty, Molly answered, ‘Very messy.’ I liked that. Molly comes to Groove each week with a quiet confidence as she checks over her to-do list and very quickly finishes her tasks, always proud to share her accomplishments. STAR has given me and Groove the chance to change the lives of these young adults, the other employees, and especially the customers who interact and get to know these awesome people as contributing members of our community. We celebrate their unique abilities every day, and, for that, I am forever grateful.”
STAR’s Employment Services Program works closely with local businesses to assess their employment needs, match them to qualified candidates, and place STAR’s pool of able workers. STAR job developers not only help create these well-matched roles, but they also serve as liaisons and resources for business partners. Through STAR’s training and coaching model that serves as a catalyst for success, participants are placed in long-lasting positions with coaches and developers that support both businesses and employees in job training and additional services. In fact, of the scores of adults with disabilities currently supported in employment by STAR, the average tenure on the job is a remarkable 8.6 years, even after some great challenges during Covid-19.
Katie Banzhaf, STAR’s Executive Director, was thrilled to congratulate Molly on her recent graduation. “We are all very proud and happy for Molly as she begins another chapter in her life. STAR has a long history working alongside Molly and her family and we are grateful that they are all a big part of the STAR family. Through Molly and her parents, Meghan and Rob, STAR is surrounded by wonderfully engaged and generous New Canaan friends. I know Molly has a bright future ahead of her and she will continue to light the way as a shining example of inclusion and the remarkable milestones that can be achieved with the support of a community like New Canaan!” says Katie Banzhaf.
Celebrating its 70th Anniversary, STAR was established in 1952 by parents who believed that children with intellectual and developmental disabilities are entitled to the same basic opportunities as other children. Today, STAR, Inc., Lighting the Way is a not–for-profit organization that has grown to include a full array of services for over 600 individuals with disabilities, from birth to their senior years and their families. For more information about STAR, Inc., Lighting the Way, visit www.starct.org . For more information about the Lesley University Threshold Program, visit https://lesley.edu/threshold-program