Kerry Magro ’11/M.A. ’13 is a two-time TEDx speaker, an author, the founder of a nonprofit organization, a Ph.D. student and he’s also autistic. Magro’s career aspirations and successes stem directly from his passion for helping people with disabilities and breaking down barriers of hate and intolerance toward those with special needs. His inspiration comes from own life experiences, “I used to be a victim of bullying growing up and due to my challenges with autism I was often unable to advocate for myself when it happened,” Magro explained.
In college he realized he needed to not only self-advocate but also advocate for others. After witnessing a blind student fall over construction tape on campus at Seton Hall with no assistance from onlookers, Magro, then a freshman, spurred into action, “I realized that there was no disability related organization to spread awareness for those with special needs like me. I decided at that moment to come out to my peers about having autism. I used my personal story as a platform to help educate and spread resources to the Seton Hall community.” By the time he was a sophomore, Magro was involved in the creation of the organization Student Disability Awareness (SDA) at Seton Hall. His life as an advocate for people with disabilities only grew from then on.
Feeding his passion, Magro became heavily involved with the organization Autism Speaks. First as a volunteer, then as an intern, a consultant and ultimately earned a full-time position that he held for four years. After a few years under his belt, Magro recognized a specific area of need within the realm of autism advocacy, awareness surrounding adults with autism. Of this he said, “I noticed that the popular image of autism was around children…this made me want to start an organization that not only advocates for those with autism but provides them scholarships to go to college as well.” Magro created KFM Making a Difference, a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization to do just that. Magro cites the work of the organization, which has given a number of scholarships to young adults with autism and sees firsthand the results as their recipients graduate from college.
Remaining true to creating more awareness around adults with autism, Magro focuses on that topic in his life as an international speaker. His two TEDx talks are about the transition to adulthood for those with disabilities, specifically discussing success in college and what happens to children with autism when they become adults.
While KFM Making a Difference is affecting so many lives in addition to his speeches, Magro takes his advocacy work even further through his writing. He’s authored two books, Defining Autism from the Heart and Autism and Falling in Love. Defining Autism from the Heart is a compilation of poems and essays about becoming a self-advocate and not letting autism define his journey. Autism and Falling in Love is based on Magro’s successes and challenges in finding love on the spectrum. “I wrote it as a self-help guide for those with autism who want to pursue romantic relationships for the first time,” he explained.
No matter the avenue, be it his writing, speaking or organizing, Magro wants to empower, “I want others to be able to define their lives and their journeys in the way they best see it every day.” It is the type of empowerment he received throughout his life via therapy, support and mentors such as Michael Reuter, professor at Seton Hall and director of the Leadership Development Honors Program. Magro recalled his time with Reuter, “Michael was always someone I could go to for anything, his quote ‘believe with the end in mind’ pushed me to go after my degree and what I’m doing today in my career.”
Reuter and the program are among many fond memories Magro has of his time at The Hall. His involvement in clubs such as Alpha Phi Omega, Village Liaisons and National Residence Hall Honorary resulted in friends that became family. Above it all, Magro says his favorite aspect of life at Seton Hall was the sense of community, “Playing intermural basketball in the gym or hanging out in the cove on a weekend, getting Miss Virginia’s Taylor ham sandwich, everyone knew each other, it was great times.”
For those still at The Hall, Magro offers this piece of advice, “Say yes to opportunities that are present to you early on, then work your way into your niche and help it define your time at Seton Hall.”
Magro is now pursuing a Ph.D. in Educational Technology Leadership at New Jersey City University.