Alumnus speaks of autism at work

By Dean Galiffa

Speaker Patrick Viesti addresses students and faculty in the DCCC Marple campus lecture hall. Photo by Dean Galiffa

Standing at the podium, looking out into the crowd of students, Patrick Viesti introduces himself to the onlooking pupils. All eyes are on him as he stands in the front of the DCCC Marple campus lecture hall on April 11.

“Good morning, everyone,” Viesti says. “I want to thank you for inviting me to talk about SAP’s ‘Autism at Work’ program and share my journey. To begin this story, I need to provide a background of who I am. [I have been] featured in several major video and written news publications. But, before all of that, at the age of three, I was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome.”

Viesti is one of five who were selected to be a part of the Autism at Work Program at the Newtown Square campus of SAP, one of the world’s largest business software companies, where he currently manages company projects as an order execution manager.

Viesti has spoken at the United Nations in New York for World Autism Awareness Day. He was asked by Jose Velasco, head of SAP’s Autism at Work Program in North America, to be interviewed by news television channels Al-Jazeera America and CBS This Morning.

The ARC of Philadelphia, SAP’s local implementation partner with the Autism at Work Program, asked Viesti to visit Capitol Hill and speak to Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) about how colleges and local businesses can form partnerships to help those on the autism spectrum better integrate into the workforce after graduation.

After receiving DCCC’s 2017 Rising Star award for the 50th anniversary last September, Viesti recently visited the Marple campus to discuss his experiences as a student with Asperger’s.

“It’s hard to believe, but I, too, sat in the very same seats you are now,” Viesti says, looking out into the lecture hall. There was a murmur from the audience as students and teachers chuckled.

“Taking my first steps towards higher education was something I had been preparing for since I graduated from Hill Top Preparatory School,” Viesti says. “My experiences with DCCC were some of the best at challenging me to become a better writer, a better critical thinker, and a better person.”

After attending Coeburn Elementary School in Rosemont, Pa., Viesti’s parents found it best for him to attend specialized education for both middle and high school.

Hill Top Preparatory School is a grade fifth through twelve preparatory day school for students with learning disabilities.

Viesti attended the school for seven years. After graduating in 2005, he attended DCCC where he received an associate degree in communications.

In 2008, Viesti transferred to West Chester University where he graduated Cum Laude with a bachelor’s degree in communications in 2011.

After graduating, Viesti had difficulty finding a job due to a combination of the recession and his Asperger syndrome. However, in May 2013, a family friend referred Viesti to a CNN news report on SAP’s Autism at Work inAfter applying for the program, Viesti was contacted by ARC of Philadelphia in late February 2014 to be interviewed.

Walking toward the audience, Viesti addresses the students and faculty with nothing between them. Hands crossed over his tie, he stands only feet away from the front row.

“The interview process was nothing like I expected,” Viesti says, abandoning his scripted speech. “They actually really wanted to get to know me on a personal level.”

Audience members smile as they listen to Viesti share why he thinks it is important for colleges to support students with autism.

“I cannot stress enough the importance of colleges such as DCCC forming partnerships with local businesses that will give students on the spectrum a better, stronger chance at being hired after graduation,” Viesti said.

Now, Viesti speaks on behalf of his personal experiences at SAP when other companies interested in Autism at Work visit. He helps inform and equip their administrators to implement the program at their own company.

Viesti hopes that both students on the spectrum and otherwise will continue to persevere and use their available resources.

“When I was looking for work, there were times that I thought ‘what more can I do?’” Viesti said. “There will always be that one person that will say ‘I want to hire you.’ You have to keep going, you have to keep pushing. Even beyond graduation, continue to keep in contact with people who can help you. I would not have graduated without that support.”

Contact Dean Galiffa at

‘Coping With Anxiety’: a professional perspective

By John Kearney

Richard M. Conforto, Ph.D., a licensed psychologist and clinical director at Springfield Psychological, spoke to almost 30 students in Room 4255 on Marple campus, April 11. The workshop, “Coping with Anxiety,” focused on anxiety disorders and their complications, while providing insights on how to manage their anxiety.

DCCC counselor Jennifer Kalligonis said she initially invited Conforto to speak in March, but the talk was postponed due to inclement weather that closed the college.

“We’ve had a lot of students coming in with symptoms of anxiety,” said DCCC counselor Kalligonis, who also hosted a workshop earlier in the academic year for students feeling anxious regarding tests and exams.

“Since it seemed so prevalent, it seemed like a good idea to have a workshop about general anxiety,” Kalligonis said.

Conforto began his presentation by recognizing what anxiety is.

“Anxiety is the body’s natural reaction to a threat,” Conforto said. “It could be categorized by feelings of apprehension, dread and fear.”

Conforto highlighted cognition as a major role in the amount of stress an individual can experience.

“Most of the stressors we face today are psychological, whether they are worries about the future, regrets about the past, or injustices that cause frustration and anger,” he explained.

Conforto then categorizes the symptoms of anxiety as physical, mental, and behavioral.

Physical symptoms include feeling tired, headaches, chest pain and pounding heart, muscle tension, and trouble sleeping.

Mental symptoms include an inability to concentrate, a lack of interest in things previously enjoyed, irritability, and excessive worry.

Behavioral symptoms comprise a decrease in performance at school or work, increased conflicts with others, and using recreational drugs to cope with stress.

“There is a neurological basis for anxiety and stress,” Conforto said. “While we cannot remove or eliminate anxiety neurochemically, we can manage it.”

He next offered ways of coping if the trigger or stressor can or cannot be controlled.

“Being assertive with others is useful if stress is generated by others imposing their agendas on you,” he told students.

Conforto then outlined some coping techniques to consider when feeling anxious such as “healthy self-talk” which allows people to “talk to themselves like they would a friend or loved one,” he stated.

He considered perfectionism or “all or nothing” thinking as counterintuitive to mental health.

“Life has shades of gray,” Conforto added.

In social and personal situations, Conforto suggested that one “examine the evidence” and “dispute irrational beliefs” as a means of providing clear context.

Overgeneralizing and jumping to conclusions were also noted as a means of “taking a simple event, and blowing it out of proportion,” according to Conforto.

After the lecture, Conforto managed an activity in mindfulness in which participants closed their eyes for five minutes and focused their attention on their breathing.

“Breathing is our anger at the present,” he whispered. “Notice how each breath fades into the next.”

Tips provided at the end of Conforto’s talk emphasized the role of caring for one’s self, filling one’s life with positive experiences and people “for those you have control over,” and recognizing the things that are worth being grateful for “as they can really shift your perspective,” he said.

Louis Silvestri, a 19-year -old business major, believed the talk was beneficial.

“I thought it was useful,” Silvestri said. “ I like how he showed us how everything is connected.”

Conforto also mentioned the importance of keeping a journal as a means of venting, self-reflection, and personal growth.

Afterward, Conforto offered references to help manage anxiety: free apps like “InsightTimer” and “Headspace” provide mindfulness training, as well as readings, such as “When Panic Attacks,” by David Burns, and “Mindfulness for Beginners” by Jon Kabat-Zinn. Some websites were MindfulNet ( and UCLA’s Mindful Awareness Research Center (

The full list of references Conforto provided is available as a handout in the Career and Counseling Center.

“Fear and anxiety are like bullies; they are not scary once you confront them,” Conforto said. “It is necessary to move toward the feared situation rather than avoid it.”

Contact John Kearney at

Phantoms surge back to beat Cougars 8-7


First baseman Matthew Long sets up for the next batter against the Cougars on April 13. Photo by Nicholas Gallo

By Nicholas Gallo

The DCCC Phantoms baseball team stole a win from Lehigh Community College on April 13, at their home field.

It seemed as if the Phantoms were going to add a loss to their record being down 6-2 in the bottom of the fifth inning, then Phantoms short stop Sean Donahue stepped up to bat. Donahue got on base after the Cougars mishandled a ground ball. Donahue proceeded to steal second, putting the team in position to get a run in with no outs.

Phantoms third basemen Jorge Rodriguez advanced Donahue to third in a ground out to first. With one out, Alec Barr hit a slicing double to jumpstart a comeback.

The next two batters for the Phantoms continued to add more runs onto the board. With two outs and a man on third, Phantom’s first basemen Matthew Long delivered the final run of the inning, tying the score at 6-6.

Entering the sixth inning, both teams picked up their defenses. With a diving play by Phantom’s outfielder, Tyler Butz, and good pitching by the Cougars, neither team was able to score in the inning.

Phantom’s left-fielder Christopher Caltabiano looked to motivate his teammates by hitting a single and being aggressive on the base paths in the bottom of the seventh.

Caltaibiano went into action by stealing second and third base. Butz would break the tie by hitting a double, making the score 7-6.

Caltaibiano continued to perform by hitting a single to bring Donahue home in the bottom of the eighth. Donahue put Caltabiano in position to bring a run in by hitting a single and stealing second base. Entering the ninth inning, the Phantoms were ahead 8-6.

Phantoms head coach Paul Motta said the seventh inning is when things started to turn around.

“When we started to run the bases better and get better pitches to hit, that is when things started to happen for us,” Motta said.


Long prepares to field a ground ball. Photo by Nicholas Gallo

In the ninth inning, the Phantoms walked four consecutive batters to cut the lead to one. With bases loaded and two outs, the Cougars had an opportunity to take the game away from the Phantoms. Christian Burgos of the Cougars popped up an infield fly, giving the Phantoms 8-7 win.

The win gave DCCC a two game winning streak going into Saturday.

“I don’t know what kind of pitching we are going to have for Saturday as we used up most of the pitching today,” Motta said. “We are going to have to hit the ball to win. We are not going to be able to pitch way out.”

The Phantoms take on Valley Forge at DCCC’s field for a doubleheader. First game starts at 12:00p.m. on April 15.

Contact Nicholas Gallo at

Phantoms huddle together to talk game-plan to close out with a win against the Lehigh Cougars on April 13. Photo by Nicholas Gallo

Angry 76ers fans look ahead


The Philadelphia 76ers’ Joel Embiid holds his left leg after injuring it in the third quarter against the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday, Jan. 20, 2017, at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia. The Sixers won, 93-92. (Yong Kim/Philadelphia Daily News/TNS)

76ers fans are fed up, and for good reason.

It all started with the acquisition of all-star center Andrew Bynum in 2012. So much hype and glamour surrounded Bynum. The 76ers held a press conference open to the fans at the National Constitution Center to welcome their new player to Philly. Fans packed the center cheering “Andrew Bynum!”

Cheering would stop after hearing Bynum was receiving treatment a week before training camp on both of his knees. Due to a chronic knee injury, Bynum never played a game for the 76ers.

The following year Sam Hinkie took over and “The Process” was born.

Three straight years of “tanking” took place where the 76ers would put together a roster of no-name guys to help stockpile draft picks.

After Hinkie was run out of town by the NBA last April, Bryan Colangelo was hired.

Colangelo received heat from the fans because of the way he handled the Joel Embiid injury situation in February.

Colangelo lied to the public by saying that Embiid did not have a partially-torn meniscus when he appeared on 94.1 WIP on Feb. 10. Colangelo said he suffered a knee contusion. He also said the injury was “day-to-day.” Embiid reportedly tore his meniscus Jan. 20 against the Portland Trail Blazers. The 76ers allowed him to play Jan. 27 in a nationally televised game. His season was over after that game. That is not “day-to-day.”

“Bryan Colangelo is an idiot,” said a 76ers fan on Twitter.

“I love Sixers, the team. Hate sixers the everything else,” said another fan on Twitter. “So unfair to such a loyal fan base. Always kept in the dark about everything,”

During his season-ending press conference, Colangelo described his medical staff as “world class.” This statement went under fire immediately due to the lack of announcement regarding the injury of Embiid along with the questionable handlings of the Ben Simmons and Jahlil Okafor injuries.

“Bryan Colangelo is horrible,” said Angelo Cataldi, sports radio personality for 94.1 WIP.

Talk about breaking the fans trust.

Since the 2013-2014 season, the 76ers combined record is 75-253. That ranks worst in the NBA…by far.

According to ESPN, the 76ers attendance ranked among the worst in the NBA from 2013- 2016. This past season attendance was ranked 18th.

The 76ers 28 wins this season is an 18-win improvement from last year.

To get back to the playoffs for the first time since the 2011-2012 season, health will be a key factor. Embiid and Simmons should be ready to go next season.

The 76ers will have over $28 million in cap space, the most in the NBA.

“We’re going to make it known that we’re a player in free agency,” Colangelo said during his season-ending press conference.

Another lottery pick will give the 76ers another young asset to play with Embiid and Simmons.

With scouts projecting this draft as a deep 2017 guard class, the 76ers could get their guard to play with Simmons and Embiid.

Kentucky shooting guard Malik Monk is projected to go to the 76ers in many mock drafts. At Kentucky, he averaged just under 20 points per game. In a total of 38 games, Monk was held to single digits only twice.

“If the Sixers just landed Monk next year and Joel Embiid is back and healthy and Ben Simmons is back and healthy, they start to become a dangerous team right away,” ESPN draft analyst Chad Ford said on the SEC Country podcast.

Monk’s Kentucky teammate De’Aaron Fox is an option for the 76ers.

“He’s the fastest guard in this draft,” said Ford. “He has elite speed.”

After leading his team to the Sweet 16, Fox’s stock has risen. According to Ford, Fox could go as high as four and as low as eight.

“I would be very pleased with either DeAaron Fox or Malik Monk ending up on the sixers…or both,” said a fan on Twitter.

Expectations will be higher for the 76ers after winning 28 games this season.

“For the draft, I believe the Sixers will hold the 4th overall pick and select Malik Monk due to their dire need of shooters,” said Steve Bertoline, who is a DCCC student and avid 76ers fan. “I think they will most likely copy their plan last year and sign one or two veteran free agents, while retaining some of their young role players. The team as a whole has huge potential to make a playoff run, and I don’t see any reason, beyond injuries, of why they should not have 40-plus wins.”

Contact Colin Anglim at

American Sign Language celebrates 200 years


Justine Ganatra, a DCCC sign language instructor, teaches her students American Sign Language, on April 18, 2017. Photo by Pavlina Cerna.

By Pavlina Cerna

For 20 weeks each semester since 1999, Justine Ganatra has been teaching American Sign Language as a non-credit course at the DCCC Marple campus.

Working as a full-time project manager, Ganatra gives sign language lessons in her spare time “for fun and for the joy of meeting new people.”

“I get such a variety of people here,” Gantra said. “I have had religious people, security people, police officers, physicians and famous people come in here. A few semesters ago, I had a radio personality here! I have had pregnant mothers that know that the child is deaf and learn to sign before the child is born.”

Ganatra became interested in ASL in college, when she took a graduate level class and later learned ASL at a variety of places, including Temple University, Pennsylvania School for the Deaf and Gallaudet University.

Ganatra, as many other lectors, is able to teach ASL thanks to the “American school for the Deaf ” that opened exactly 200 years ago.

Philadelphia born Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet, together with aspiring deaf teacher from France, Laurent Clerk, and a physician Mason Fitch Cogswell, opened the first institution educating deaf and mute people on April 15, 1817. The school was called “Connecticut Asylum for the Education and Instruction of Deaf and Dumb Persons,” located in Hartford, Conn. Later, the institution was renamed the “American School for the Deaf.”

When Gallaudet met Alice, a daughter of his neighbour Cogswell, who had become deaf at the age of two, he was determined to educate her. Traveling to Europe to learn the best techniques for teaching deaf, he met Clerk and together they returned to the United States and opened the first American school for the deaf, where Alice was one of the first students.

The Asylum was essential for the creation of the American Sign Language. Until then, different areas had their own signs, but there was not a united sign language in the United States.

Although the United States Census Bureau “counts ASL speakers among those who speak English” because the formulas “used to capture languages spoken and English-speaking ability are not designed to identify American Sign Language users,” ASL is commonly said to be the fourth most-used language in the U.S. Nevertheless, no official data supports the claim.

According to World Federation of the Deaf, there are approximately 70 million people worldwide who use sign language as their mother tongue. The exact figure varies depending on whether people with hearing impairments are included.[Text Wrapping Break]The number of official sign languages existing around the world is estimated between 150 and 300, according to various sources. Sign language developed naturally and independently from spoken language and, just as spoken language, has its own dialects.

A committee of the World Federation of the Deaf attempted to create a universal sign language in 1973, called Gestuno. The name refers to the English word “gesture” and the Spanish word for “one.” Nevertheless, Gestuno is labeled as a system of signs and because it has no concrete grammar rules, it is not considered a real language by many people.

Jeffrey S. Bravin, a current director of the American school for the Deaf with currently 170 students, emphasized the importance of deaf role models in an interview with Comcast Newsmakers on Sept. 17, 2014. Being deaf himself, he speaks through an interpreter, Janice Knauth.

“Often when deaf children are born, they are the only deaf child in the family and they don’t meet deaf role models or deaf individuals,” Bravin said. “So I am hoping when they come to the American school for the Deaf, they will see a deaf person as the executive director of the school which shows them that deaf people can succeed.“

In 1990, Congress passed the Americans with Disabilities Act, the nation’s first comprehensive civil rights law that makes it unlawful to discriminate in employment against a qualified individual with a disability, yet many disabled individuals still meet with rejections from employers.

Kelly Dougher, a profoundly hearing impaired freelance writer and artist from Pennsylvania, described her struggle with finding a job on a deaf blog called “Limping Chicken” with more than 2500 members.

“I have been forced to find strategies that help me to adapt,” Dougher wrote. “My newest strategy? Stop mentioning my hearing loss in job interviews.” She wrote that many times she was not invited to an interview for a position she was qualified for because of her hearing impairment.

According to the National Deaf Center, 48 percent of deaf people had a job in 2014, compared to 72 percent of hearing individuals.

Deaf people questioned in a video interview for NDC titled “Deaf people and employment in the United States: 2016” expressed their frustration with employers who often do not know how to communicate with them, do not want to hire an interpreter, require them to do tasks they are not able to do or, on the contrary, do not let them do tasks they are capable of for thinking of them as too difficult. Many pointed out that there is a lack of experience working with deaf people and fewer opportunities.

A woman in the video whose name was not disclosed said, “They see that I am deaf and a girl and they think I cannot do the job.”

Nevertheless, Bravin believes opportunities for the deaf have increased and deaf students at his school can succeed.

“I started at McDonald’s, cleaning tables and I worked my way up and [children] need to see it, be assertive and know that with education they can move up and become successful leaders and productive citizens,” he said in the interview with Comcast Newsmakers.

As for Ganatra, she has been an inspiration for many of her students.

“I have five students that became sign language interpreters and four students who became teachers for the deaf and two who are in school for it now,” she said. “They let me know that I started them on their journey.”

Passing her knowledge to 13 students over this spring semester, she devoted the final class on April 18 to teaching curse words that she believes should not be taught on the beginning.

“I usually wait until the last night of last class and I teach any words that anyone wants to know,” Ganatra said.

Those interested in sign language course can register by calling 610-359-5025 or by filling out an application in Return to Learn brochures available at all campuses.

Contact Pavlina Cerna at