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Success & Impact

Graduating Senior Reflects on a College Experience Full of Service

David Hummel’s family once wondered if he would go to college at all. But Hummel ‘20 has become a mentor to other students on the autism spectrum through his work with the Kinney Center for Autism Education and Support.

David Hummel

Published: May 13, 2020

Total reading time: 4 minutes

The Kinney Center for Autism Education and Support’s ASPIRE program typically pairs a Saint Joseph’s freshman who has autism spectrum disorder with an upperclassman who is considered to be neurotypical. But senior David Hummel '20, a religious studies and history double major, is the rare student to have played the role of both mentee and mentor, allowing him a unique opportunity to influence his younger peers.

“Each semester we change mentees, so I’m paired with a different person every spring and fall. For me, my role as a mentor is different because I’m on the spectrum,” says Hummel. “Sometimes, my mentee might not feel comfortable with having the same level of [extroversion] as I have. They may have their own comfort level. And that’s fine, too.”

But, reflecting on his evolution since arriving at Saint Joseph’s four years ago, Hummel also knows that those comfort levels can change over the course of a college career.

“I did a complete 180 when I got to Saint Joseph’s,” he says. This came from not only involvement with the Kinney Center, but also with Campus Ministry. They both helped bring out my true energetic and lively personality. Before, I was always kind of an introvert. I was afraid of telling others what I felt and what I was going through.”

Making the decision to go to college — never mind which college — was one that Hummel spent a great amount of time thinking about during his senior year of high school. He recalls that the choice wasn’t an easy one, but that he would make the same decision if given the chance today.

“There was a part of me that felt that I really will only get one shot at this, and I have to make the most of it,” says Hummel.

There was a part of me that felt that I really will only get one shot at this, and I have to make the most of it.”

David Hummel '20

For David’s mother Betsy '87, the decision for David to attend Saint Joseph’s was a clear one.

“For David, the many opportunities SJU offered made it the obvious choice for him. Being a part of the ASPIRE program within the Kinney Center … helped him to feel at home,” she says. “He also found his faith through the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA, a process for prospective converts to Catholicism) and became heavily involved in Campus Ministry, including being a lector, cantor and a member of the choir. I am proud of all that David has accomplished on Hawk Hill. It was definitely the right place for him to spread his wings and soar.”

Through his early involvement with the Kinney Center, Hummel found a passion for service. He built on that passion by taking part in the Appalachian Experience (APEX) program, a service-oriented trip that takes place during the spring semester every year.

“APEX has really, really helped me to come out of my shell and develop into the person I wanted to become,” says Hummel. “Embracing the Jesuit-inspired ideals and teachings that guide the APEX program, and Saint Joseph’s as a whole, helped make me the person I am today.”

In addition to his involvement in APEX and ASPIRE, Hummel also participates in the Kinney Center’s SCHOLARS program, which pairs graduate and undergraduate students with community members in the Kinney Center’s youth, adult and transitional programs.

Hummel says SCHOLARS has given him the opportunity to directly impact the Saint Joseph’s community through his service, something that he takes great pride in.

“David is a true Hawk,” says Theresa McFalls, director of college support at the Kinney Center. “[He] encompasses what it means to be ‘men and women with and for others,’ and he’ll carry that with him on graduation day.”

As Hummel’s time at Saint Joseph's comes to an end, there’s one question that he finds himself being asked much more frequently than ever before: What was your favorite thing about college?

The answer, Hummel says, isn’t so black and white. Other than what he believes are incredibly unique opportunities for service, one of the best things about Hummel’s time at Saint Joseph's has been watching the growth of a tight-knit campus community.

“The campus, and more importantly the students, staff and faculty who make it so unique, have been constantly growing and striving to better themselves since I came here,” says Hummel. “Not only as individuals but as an entire community. I’m happy to have played my part in it.”