Opening Doors of Opportunity: A Look at the Willowbrook State School

The College of Staten Island (CSI) will commemorate the 20th anniversary of the closing of the Willowbrook State School on October 12 with a public forum addressing what closing Willowbrook has meant to the Staten Island community, including the quality of life of people with disabilities and their families.

Dr. Tomá¡s Morales, president of CSI, said, “this event helps us remember the Willowbrook State School, and reminds us that Willowbrook holds academic and historic importance not only to the residents, staff, and families directly involved with its operation, but also the disabilities rights movement. We embrace the history of our campus and we consider it not only a resource for remembrance, but also a source of pride and connection to the entire disabilities community.”

“On this 20th anniversary of the closing of Willowbrook, it is important for us to commemorate how, through courage, cooperation, and hard work, good was ultimately able to be made out of a bad situation,” said David Goode, coordinator of CSI’s disability program. “It is also an opportunity to consider where we are and where we would like to be regarding matters of disability in our community.”

“As a parent of a young woman with developmental disabilities, I applaud the commitment of parents and advocates who fought to close Willowbrook and other such institutions in New York State,” said Henry Kennedy, a long-time disabilities advocate. “We celebrate their hard work and recognize that it continues today to resonate in the services, educational programs, and community housing opportunities available for those with developmental disabilities.”

Speakers include:
-Dr. Tomás Morales, president of CSI, will extend greetings to the gathering
-Diana J. Ritter, commissioner, NYS Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities
-David Booth, NYS Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities
-Nona Brathwaite, former Willowbrook resident and advocate
-Ted Brown, director, Institute for Basic Research
-Diane Buglioli, director, A Very Special Place, and former Willowbrook worker
-Christine Cea, CSI Foundation board member and parent of a child with disability
-Lorraine DeSantis, chair, Staten Island Developmental Disabilities Council and parent of a child with disability
-David Goode, sociology professor at CSI and Willowbrook historian
-Henry Kennedy, parent of a child with disability
-Margaret Venditti, director, CSI Office of Disability Services

The hour-long program will be followed by 25 minutes of audience questions and comments, and a short reception. The event is free and open to the public, and will be held at 1:00pm in the Williamson Theatre of the CSI Center for the Arts at 2800 Victory Boulevard in the Willowbrook section of Staten Island. If you plan to attend, please notify the CSI advancement office at 718-982-2365.

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