Andrea Pianka was an award-winning artist and accomplished equestrian when a car accident left her unable to use her legs and with limited use of her hands.
This articulate, determined Westfield resident has a lot to feel good about these days. Thanks to Easter Seals technology and expertise – and her own determination – Andrea graduated from Westfield State University and is about to receive her master’s in vocational rehabilitation counseling from Assumption College, with a 3.8 grade point average.
Before she met Easter Seals Technology Specialist Jeff McAuslin, Andrea was unable to use her family computer. Easter Seals provided her with a laptop and other devices and trained her to use them. She also received a desk to use with her wheelchair.
“Jeff gave me the foundation to begin college and carried me through,” Andrea said.
On the road to her career, Andrea, 27, has an impressive resume. She was an intern for the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission and currently is an advisor for its Western Mass. Regional Advisory Consumer Council. She’s also a member of Westfield’s Commission on Citizens with Disabilities, a motivational speaker and mentor, and an Easter Seals Ambassador.
“I decided that I wanted to help people with disabilities believe that they can accomplish anything they set their mind to,” she said. “I want to make everyone aware that, with certain adaptations in the workplace, individuals with disabilities can become just as great as workers without disabilities.”
Andrea is grateful that Easter Seals has helped point her to a bright future. “Without Easter Seals technology, I would never have been able to handle the work involved in college,” she said. “I’ve also become more assertive and outspoken, and an advocate for myself and for other people with disabilities.
“Easter Seals,” she said, “is a wonderful organization.”
The Easter Seals services Andrea received were made possible by a partnership with the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission.