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Sam Franco on Superhero Social Justice

News for 02.08.18
02.08.18
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By Sarah Verity, Board Relations Manager

“It inspires me to think that people today are fighting for justice and equality in the world, like superheroes from 80’s and 90’s action movies! But, instead of using violence and physical force they use other tools. They use pen, paper, and their thoughts.” –Sam Franco

I met Sam Franco, who’s currently 29 years old, when he joined our Adult Day Program more than six years ago and have had the pleasure of watching him grow and flourish in the Gatepath community. One of the first things I learned about Sam is that he has an enthusiastic interest and knowledge of films and movies, so it did not surprise me when he became involved in our Film & Media Arts Class and received awards for his films at Gatepath Social Connection Film Premieres. Eventually, he began attending our Friday Night Hang Outs where he could socialize with his peers in a fun and relaxed environment, often watching movies, which is one of his favorite activities.

“I got into action movies and superheroes when I was in high school. It was also a time when I was bullied. I like to believe people are good, but there are injustices in the world,” Sam said while sharing how superheroes play an important role in his life.

Two years ago, I was thrilled to see that Sam landed a job at Electronic Arts as a Janitor after going through Gatepath’s job placement and training program. “My job teaches me to be more adaptable . . . because sometimes our schedule for the day changes,” Sam said. “Having a job helps me earn money so I can go to the movies and see new action and superhero films.”

Sam now joins his social justice superheroes as a member of the Gatepath Board’s Program Committee. Sam provides a critical perspective that is appreciated by the other committee members, and he is an excellent representative for the adult participants receiving services through Gatepath. The Program Committee consists of Gatepath CEO Bryan Neider, Board Members, family members, and other community stakeholders who meet on a bimonthly basis to ensure Gatepath programs are in line with best practices in the field. Sam’s feedback is really valuable, and he has an incredible knack for zeroing in on the bottom line, often bringing the committee’s attention to what really matters when sharing his observations.

“It is informative and inspiring to get an inside look at how Gatepath is run and get a chance to share my perspective with the big bosses. I feel included and heard by the board,” Sam said about his recent experiences at the meetings.

Before joining the Program Committee, Sam was a member of the Peer Advisory Committee, an internal committee consisting of representatives from each of Gatepath’s adult programs.

“I love dreaming up new things for Gatepath and seeing possibilities!” Sam said. Sam also shared that at one point in his life he was not confident in himself or his place in the community as an individual with a disability. However, with time and the support of Gatepath, he is now proud to stand up for what he believes is right, understanding that people come from different backgrounds, generations, and perspectives. I will proudly stand next to Sam and join him in his advocacy efforts.  I hope you will too!  You can start by signing Gatepath’s “Pledge for Inclusion” at https://pledgeforinclusion.org/ to make your commitment to accept, respect and include people of of all abilities in your community.