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Meet Laura Pietak, Director of Achieve

By December 12, 2022Achieve Program

What is your role at Villa and what does that entail?

I am the Director of the Achieve Program at Villa. I oversee the program, promote the program to local schools and organizations, and work with students to identify what resources would be most helpful during their time in the Achieve Program at Villa.

What do you find to be most enjoyable about it?

The most enjoyable part of my job is getting to know the students and watching them grow throughout the years. I love to see them gain confidence, independence, and skills to prepare them for life after college. Being able to be a part of such an important time in their lives is an honor and I love when after graduation students stay in touch so I can continue to see them grow and succeed!

Share something unique about your program.

The Achieve Program is one of a kind in Western New York. We have a wide range of student diagnoses and focus on helping with the transition from high school to college and then college to career. We are always focusing on what resources are most beneficial to the students and adapt and change based on their needs. Our Career Readiness Program developed because we saw a need for additional resources to prepare students for a career in their field after graduation. Recently we added First Year Workshops for all new incoming students that focus on areas such as problem solving, self-advocacy, and academic skills.

Tell us more about your program.

The Achieve Program is a fee-based program that goes above and beyond what is required by law by providing additional academic, social, and career resources to students enrolled at Villa Maria College. Students have access to weekly tutoring sessions with professional tutors, academic and career workshops, events and activities through Achieve, Achieve Kick-Off multi-day event before the start of the Fall semester, Career Readiness course, on-campus internship, and so much more!

What are some things you do outside of Villa that relate to your field?

Recently I was able to become a certified PEERS Young Adult provider through UCLA PEERS program. PEERS is an evidence -based social skills treatment developed by Dr. Elizabeth Laugeson for young adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety, depression, and other socio-emotional problems. This past month I joined the Board of Directors for Accessible Academics, a not-for-profit agency that advocates for inclusion and supports people with disabilities to become independent during the post-secondary transition.

What are some of your professional accomplishments?

Since becoming Director in 2021 I have been able to make connections and add to the Achieve Program. Achieve and Villa have partnered with Arbol, a start-up company focused on helping under-resources students stay in school and graduate through financial and community support. I have worked closely with them throughout this partnership, and I was invited to speak at their Fundraiser about the ways in which Arbol has helped students at Villa. At the end of the Spring 2022 semester, I was able to launch our first ever End of the Year Celebration. This event highlighted student work, honored students with Character Trait Recognition Awards as well as the Achieve Spirit Award. Students, faculty, staff, and invited guests were treated to lunch donated by Chef’s Restaurant and Ilio Di’ Paolo’s Restaurant.

Share a fun fact about yourself.

I currently am a dance teacher at Tonawanda Dance Arts where I danced growing up!