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Olivia Smelstor

Olivia Smelstor ’24 started babysitting as soon as she was old enough. The Bellingham, Massachusetts, native was known in her hometown as a dependable caretaker who was good with children. But when Smelstor met a neighbor with two boys on the autism spectrum, she discovered that her ability to bond with kids was more special than she realized.

While both boys were on the spectrum, their needs differed. Eventually, Smelstor began helping the brothers with their homework, and assisting the older son with life skills, from ordering a pizza to doing his own laundry.

“Their mother told me she thought I had a gift,” Smelstor says. “I didn’t understand what she meant at the time, but she then told me I was able to get her boys to be successful in areas that the professionals could not, because I was able to connect with them.”

Armed with purpose, Smelstor was drawn to Curry in part because of its strong Education Program. Enrolled in the special education program, she soon realized she didn’t want to generally instruct students with special needs, but instead wanted to teach life skills at a professional level. That turned Smelstor’s focus to the Registered Behavior Technician (RBT) track. Her clinical instructor at Curry, Kristina Kozak, is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) in the Canton Public School System, a designation that represents the next level of the RBT track, so Smelstor knew the Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) route was what she ultimately wanted to pursue as an undergraduate.

After leaving Curry, she will continue working toward her BCBA certification as a graduate student at Western New England University, while working at the New England Center for Children.

"Because the education staff at Curry remained focused and determined by my side, I’m many steps closer to my desired future," she said.