In mid-October, I had the opportunity to meet Cassidy Bauer (by Zoom, of course). Maria Paiewonsky, a Project Coordinator and transition specialist at Think College at the Institute for Community Inclusion, introduced us and the three of us talked together about college and work and Cassidy’s love of the food industry and her other interests. Maria worked closely with Cassidy through the Massachusetts Concurrent Inclusive Enrollment Initiative (MAICEI).
Cassidy lives in Boylston, MA with her family. She finished high school in 2007, and college in 2013. She told me she’s pretty much always been interested in the food business, and she is a very hard worker. Since leaving college, Cassidy has worked hard to pursue her interests and utilize her skills in food service. What she learned in college has truly set her up for success as a college graduate.
Let’s take a look at some highlights of Cassidy’s life from high school until now…
- She completed Tahanto Regional High School in Boylston, MA in 2007.
- Cassidy was one of the first students in Massachusetts that enrolled in college-based transition services, which means she was taking college classes in her last few years of high school.
- Since finishing high school, Cassidy has had several jobs working with food, as a customer service provider at a candy store, as a hostess and waitress at a restaurant, and preparing food in restaurants. (She also owns her own business: read on for more!)
- Cassidy was once an invited speaker at a National Down Syndrome Congress conference in Massachusetts. She spoke to all of the MA college presidents, along with Julia Landau from Mass Advocates for Children. Maria reports that Cassidy is a very powerful speaker and she made everyone cry.
- Cassidy received a Certificate of Completion from Quinsigamond Community College (QCC) in 2013. While at QCC, Cassidy says she “knew that food was definitely one of the top classes I really wanted to take because it's a lot of fun for starters. And second, because, yes there is a lot of science to cooking. But I just want young adults like me to know when they're about to graduate high school and finding a college to go to and finding classes what I like to do.”
- About people with disabilities going to college, Cassidy said, “Anybody who's thinking about [going to college] but doesn't think that they could go, yes you can go, and you can you can achieve.” She says she got to be a different person in college.
- Cassidy said she also got to be more social in college: It was “good to meet new friends, see my old friends, and, you know going to play pool there.”
- Cassidy is a record-setting, medal-winning power lifter in Special Olympics. Cassidy trained hard to excel in power lifting, working out at the gym and watching her diet.
- In 2019, Cassidy got the idea to start a food business, and she and her mom decided on a food truck. They decided to name it Fired UP because that suited Cassidy’s personality perfectly! Fired Up is a food truck that serves hot dogs and panini during lunch. They also carry some drinks and snacks. She’s got a great team that supports her, including her mom, step-dad, and lots of friends. In a local newspaper article, Cassidy was quoted as saying, “What I enjoy most is being my own boss…. I love seeing old friends who have come out to support me, and so many new friends that I am making every day.”
- In addition to running her own business, Cassidy currently works at a Senior Center to assist the residents in choosing healthy meals and ensuring they were pleased with their meals.
- Cassidy is also a Best Buddies Statewide Ambassador. She has been involved with Best Buddies for years, and has even traveled to Indiana for the Best Buddies Leadership Conference. Cassidy has been able to practice her public speaking in her work with Best Buddies and it “definitely has helped a lot, as far as making friends.”
- While at the gym once, Cassidy met a man named Todd Civin, and they started talking. He said he loved her personality and how dedicated she was to training in the gym, and wanted to write a book about her, and he did! The book is called Fired Up (named after Cassidy’s business and her enthusiastic attitude), and it illustrates Cassidy’s determination and drive to do good things in this world, and to be a good example to others with disabilities. “Define people by their disability, And I don’t think you’re really seeing. That learning may be hard for some, But they’re still a human being!!”
- Asked if she has any advice for students thinking about college, Cassidy says, “I would have definitely tried to learn this more before going to college, I mean there's gonna be a lot of studying going on for certain classes that they want to take. …but if they really want to take a class like I did for cooking just for me personally, I think it helped me a lot. As far as Microsoft Excel which was really hard for me, but as far as like the other classes. It depends, like, where to find somewhere to cook. I mean it's hard finding classes, outside of college. Because college is a beginning, you know, beginning a new life."