Q & A With Tracilyn Vaticano Asst. Executive Director, Programs
What is your role at Greystone Programs? I am the Assistant Executive Director of Programs. I currently oversee Greystone's Residential Programs and our Day and Employment Programs. Additionally, I am the Chairperson for our Infection Control Committee.
How did you get into the field of human services? As a kid, I had always wanted to be a teacher. Being a teacher isn't where I ended up, but I always knew I wanted to work with people! I studied Sociology, and after I graduated college, I moved from Buffalo to work in Queens and Brooklyn as a DSP in a residential apartment program. Then I moved into the Quality Improvement Department for that same organization, where I finally got to "teach" and learned how to investigate and pull apart issues, always looking for the best way to improve situations and help positively impact people's lives. Eventually, I settled, I became much more involved in providing supports and services to those with intellectual/developmental disabilities (I/DD). And here I am, 28 years later, right where I'm meant to be!
What do you enjoy about the work you do -- what is your "WHY"? I believe that everyone should be treated with respect and compassion and should have the opportunity to live a full life in a place they can proudly call home. I want everyone to spend their days growing, working in whatever capacity they desire, and exploring all opportunities available to them. I often ask myself, if this was where I lived or worked- would I be happy? I encourage all those around me to ask the same questions and always strive to improve.
This philosophy is shared by those I work with and lead alongside at Greystone Programs. I am surrounded by people who share my passion, dedication, and focus on ensuring those we support live their best life possible—and I LOVE that! In a field where no two days are ever the same, I learn something new every day and try to help others do the same.
How did you come up with the idea for the Leap for Autism event? I went skydiving with my sister and my friend and loved it! Later that same afternoon, Greystone was holding a fundraiser at a local brewery. A coworker, Rich Swanson, who was also at the fundraiser,
introduced me to a few people and started off my introduction by saying, "This is Tracilyn; she just jumped out of a plane today!". Most people were intrigued and shared that it was something that had always been on their bucket list. I asked them if they would consider jumping if it was for a good cause. After a few beers, most people thought it was a great idea and said they would.
I eventually pitched the idea to Skip Pryce, the CEO, who probably initially thought the idea was preposterous but considered it all the same. We pitched the idea to our Board of Directors, there were a few loud belly laughs when discussing who would get pushed out the plane first, and collectively we decided to "take the leap" and go for it. Every year since it's become better and better! The rest is history – a total team effort in pulling our first year's event together.
How does Greystone's Leap for Autism event make an impact on the individuals Greystone supports? It allows us to do all the "extras"—the things none of our funding supports. We look for every opportunity to bring music and art into people's lives through music and art therapies. Animals are therapeutic for so many people- so we can pay for equine therapy and afford other creative and beneficial programs. In the last few years, we have also pushed towards using technology in all facets of people's lives. Our standard funding sources don't support iPad, Fitbits, smart toothbrushes, and Smart Boards, but we believe in technology and see how it makes an impact every day!
What has been your experience leaping and participating in the event? I'm honest with everyone when I say I get nervous every single time that door opens, and it gets time to jump! I find that doing something daring like a backflip out the plane helps to squelch my nerves. Although free-falling for that first minute out of the plane isn't my favorite part of the leap, it's still a wild ride, and when you pull open that cord and the parachute opens, it is absolutely AMAZING! The beauty and serenity you experience as you float above one of the most beautiful parts of the Hudson Valley, it's just the best part of it all for me. The entire day is a blast. We have delicious food and drinks, along with great music to entertain you as you watch all of us Leap for Autism.
Why do you recommend participating in Leap for Autism? It is a creative platform to bring about understanding and a greater awareness to autism, as well as raise funds for all those "extras" that enrich people's lives. Just talking about the Leap opens the door to all sorts of conversations with people about autism, and we still need to have these conversations.
So often, we ask those we support at Greystone Programs to do things they are uncomfortable with, to work through things that they don't think they can or want to. So for 15 minutes, any one of us can experience something that may make us uncomfortable too and do it all for a great cause. The Leap for Autism is one event where the opportunity of leaping with us will be an amazing experience that will undoubtedly leave a lasting memory in your own life, as well as make a positive impact on those we support at Greystone Programs.