June 18, 2014 - By Trevor Keiser
Jenna Duronio smiles as she sees Sarah Sewell enjoying a Nabi Tablet. Photo by Trevor Keiser. (click for larger version)
Leader Staff Writer
Jenna Duronio, an Oxford High School 2014 graduate, brought a smile to some Lakeville Elementary Students with Autism as she handed out five Nabi Tablets on June 12.
Nabi Tablets are similar to an iPad, but they function a little bit differently The tablets were purchased through fundraising as a part of a fund-raiser that Duronio had done for a final project of the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program (IBDP).
"At first I wasn't sure what I wanted to do, but I knew I wanted to do a service project," she said.
Talking with one of her teachers, Katie Goetz, about her passions and giving it some thought, Duronio finally found her inspiration through a babysitting job she did with a child who had autism. Goetz connected Duronio with Jeremy Lavalley, one of the high school's guidance counselors, who is friends with the president of "Autism Alliance of Michigan."
Through making connections at "Autism Alliance of Michigan," "Corner Pieces," another Michigan based organization dedicated to helping children with autism and "Autism Speaks," Duronio was given boxes with hundreds of "Autism Alliance of Michigan" bracelets.
"I knew I was going to sell bracelets to raise money, but I wasn't sure what the money was going to go for," she said. "At first I thought I might take all the money and do a large donation to a different charity like "Corner Pieces" or "Autism Speaks," but then I thought that I wanted to do something that was more meaningful here in the community, that's when I got the idea for the Nabbi Tablets."
After doing research on the tablets, Duronio learned how helpful they are for children with autism in helping them learn and improve communication skills.
"They are like an iPad Tablet, but very sturdy and durable," she said. "It can be thrown and it won't break."
"These are awesome. The kids are going to love them," said Lakeville Teacher Amy Devin. "We are going to be able to use them in a lot of meaningful ways for them. It's not going to just be an enticer (for students) but a learning device as well which is just amazing."
The bracelets were sold at high school football games, basketball games, the Zombie Walk, lunch time and at her locker. Through her connections with Autism Speaks, she was able to sell bracelets at the "Disney on Ice" event held at the Palace of Auburn Hills.
"It was really exciting to talk to people and hear about their stories and learn about their families and things like that," added Duronio. "We sold (them) for minimum of $2 donation, but we had a lot of people coming up and giving us spare change and some people would just hand us a $20 bill and take one bracelet. Bless their hearts."
While she wasn't sure of the exact count of bracelets sold, she knew it was in the hundreds and she sold enough to buy five tables for $500 and has some money leftover to buy games and different things that go along with the tablets.
"I am glad I went through the DP program, it was definitely challenging, but this project and things like this definitely make it worth it," she noted. "I'm starting to see the payoff."
Duronio is hopeful that she can find someone who will continue the project that she started.
"I would like to see more Nabi (Tablets in the classrooms) and other good things happening in the community."
"I would love to partner with something like this in the future. This is awesome. I didn't even know (this project) was going on and I just love that she started something like this that is possible to keep going," Devin added. "I love that she was that thoughtful to do that (project) because she is inspired by a kiddo. They are pretty amazing kids."
Duronio's mom, Laurie said she's always known her daughter to "be a very, very kind hearted person."
"It doesn't surprise me in the least that she took on a project like this," Laurie said. "I've seen her passion throughout the whole thing and I was very inspired by her whole idea. It's just exciting to see her come to the culmination of all of her thoughts and efforts and I am very proud of her."
Jenna will be attending Oakland University in the fall where she will be studying Pre-Med.
"I always thought I wanted to be a pediatrician but we'll see," she said with a smile.
Trevor graduated with degrees in English and communications from Rochester College. He wrote for his college and LA View newspapers before joining The Clarkston News in May 2007.