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CAMPUS PHILLY: A Student, Teacher, and Healer Rolled Into One

Editor’s note: This is part of an ongoing series of high-achieving students who are engaged with the city and region in impactful ways, made possible through a content partnership with Campus Philly.

It's not often when a student can help a professor teach. But that's exactly what Cabrini College senior Erika Falvey has done with one of her instructors, Mary Murphy Budzilowicz, who talks to her own daughter about dedication and work ethic using examples from Falvey's rich and impactful college career.
"All her fabulous qualities that if my Monika emulates those, she will find success in life," says the professor.
Falvey started a nonprofit called Socks for Summer that collects hundreds of pounds of donations distributed to underserved local children who attend camps. In addition, Falvey, an honors student who will graduate next month with degrees in special education and elementary education, built a relationship with Children's Hospital of Philadelphia in which she made Christmas Cards for sick children. Recently she coordinated an effort to make 1,400 Valentine cards for children and staff there.
Falvey, who grew up and resides in Wallingford,  initiated the project as a student teacher at The Vanguard School, a comprehensive special education provider in Malvern. Falvey herself was identified in elementary school as having a significant learning disability that impacts her auditory processing. It is with the same spirit she has overcome this disability that she has impacted countless children in Greater Philadelphia. She was recently recognized by Cabrini with the school's first alumni scholarship.

Name: Erica Falvey
School and Year: Senior at Cabrini College
Major: Elementary/Special Education
Hometown: Wallingford
Job: Student teacher
Hobbies: Traveling, volunteering, photography, art
How do you explore Philly?
I love Old City, I love South Street, and I love walking around the water at Penn’s Landing. Rittenhouse Row is beautiful; I’ve gone on walks around there. I’m such a city girl, and I want to move there one day.
Who or what inspired you to start Socks for Summer, your non-profit?
I started it the summer of 2010 when I heard about this camp in West Virginia. Most of the children that go to this camp are very needy; most of them have been abused or neglected…I need[ed] to help in some way. I wanted to do something, and it can be (as) simple as coordinating and just spreading the word, and then people usually want to help in some way. (During the first round of donations,) my living room was crazy! There were a lot of bags of clothes. Socks for Summer is very different from a typical organization, because I was like ‘There’s girls at that camp that need costume jewelry, and lotions, and all that fun girly stuff!’ They’re not essentials, which we also collect, but they’re fun. Donations like that create memories.
What is your ideal job in Philly?
I’m really into special education right now, particularly working with students with autism and related emotional and social needs. [Ideally, I'd like to work in] a place with a good staff that’s supportive, works as a team, [is] encouraging, [uses] lots of positive reinforcement – a school that has those values…I would love the opportunity to, at the very least, volunteer in an inner-city school. I really want to have that experience. I think that I would grow a lot from it. I think that I would have a different perspective on teaching the whole child. I want that.
What contributed to your interest in working with young children?
When I was in school, my teachers worked hard to support me, made accommodations for me, and were patient with me. I have an auditory processing disability, so I think about that and what I needed from teachers – whether they gave it to me or not. I remember the teachers that did, but I remember how difficult it was when they didn’t make the accommodations that I needed to be successful. I think about that when I teach the students that I’m student teaching now. I think about what I would have needed if I were them. Having energy, understanding positive reinforcement, and all those great classroom management strategies are really important. And I think I’ve had a lot of experience working with children, practicing those strategies, and that really has driven me also to be confident that I can think of unique ideas to reach the students.
What do you find most rewarding in being in the classroom?
I love seeing classroom management strategies working for the students – seeing that it’s lowering their anxiety so that they can succeed. And I love seeing them engaged, and having fun, and realizing that the classroom can be an inspiring environment. I like watching them encourage each other. It’s really great to watch them interact with each other and use positivity. If the teacher sets a good example, it’s great to watch them follow it.
CAMPUS PHILLY is a nonprofit organization that fuels economic growth by encouraging college students to study, explore, live and work in the Greater Philadelphia tri-state region. Follow Campus Philly on FacebookTwitter and Foursquare.

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