Catherine Castillo is a senior majoring in integrative neuroscience. Castillo is currently the president of Student Association-chartered club One Special World and is a resident assistant (RA) in Dickinson Community.
PRISM: What is One Special World, and what impact has it had on your life?
Catherine Castillo: One Special World is a nonprofit organization, also known as a 501(c)(3). This organization advocates for those with special needs. What we do is that through volunteerism, fundraising and educational programming, we go about telling Binghamton students, or just the public in general, what special needs [are] and how to advocate for [them], the different types of things that contribute to special needs and how although someone may have special needs, they are not technically different from anyone else. That we are all in some way, shape or form unique and that it makes us beautiful either way. One Special World is about inclusivity — how even though you have a special need you should not be seen as different — and because of that it’s just an accepting environment.
P: What led you to be a part of this organization? Was it your major or any other life events?
CC: I joined this organization because one of my good friends, Danielle Preiser [‘17], is the founder of One Special World. Her brother, who is now fond to heart as well, has fragile X syndrome. The whole organization is based upon special needs advocacy, and it was dedicated to her brother. The end goal of One Special World, aside from advocating for special needs, is also to make a group home for individuals who have developmental disabilities; one of them in the future will be her brother. We want to make them a place where they feel at home, they feel safe, they feel like they belong, and that’s where we want them to be one day. Danielle was the one who informed me about this organization, and ever since I joined it I realized it is the most beautiful and amazing thing in the world — it just brings light into your life. I would go to events, and come out with the biggest smile on my face. There was not one event that I would go to [that I didn’t] have a smile on my face. I want to continue to be a part of something that brings out so much light into the world.
P: What is your role as an RA at Binghamton University? How has it shaped you?
CC: I decided to become an RA because of Danielle. I didn’t see myself being an RA when I first came here, but Danielle was the one that recommended it to me. I looked at what she did, and all the lives she impacted just by being an RA and I wanted to do the same. I feel like I was placed into the world to help people, to make a difference in the world and spread kindness and love. The reason I became an RA was to do exactly that. I wanted to be that person somebody needed at 3 p.m. or 3 a.m. and I would be there for them. I wanted to be a friend, a helper, just a person that anyone could go to.
P: Any advice to students or faculty members?
CC: The best advice that I wish I got as a freshman is to not be that hard on yourself. I remember I would be so hard on myself freshman year, I would do my best and I felt like it wasn’t enough. So I would like to tell Binghamton students and incoming students in general that it’s OK to not be as hard on yourself. It’s OK to mess up sometimes, that’s what college is for. Experience new things, be outgoing and make friends. College isn’t just about classes, it’s about making an atmosphere, making connections, making memories that you will look back at in 30 years from now and be like, ‘Wow, do you remember this night?’ and you’ll just laugh. So have fun!
PRISM has edited this interview for clarity.
“Communities of Binghamton University” is a column created to give voice to branches of the campus that may have previously gone unheard or underrepresented. It is a space that illuminates the stories of our current leaders and those who intend to be our future leaders. If you know anyone who should be featured in subsequent installments, please submit names to email@example.com