Maria Antonio '23 Bubbles Energy While Promoting Inclusion And Kindness

Maria Antonio '23 always wanted to be an author and decided last year to write a children's book. Six months later, "Field Day for Eugene," a short tale with a kind message, was published.

To say that Antonio, a triple major in Childhood Education, Special Education, and English Literature, is energetic is an understatement. Not only is her academic schedule packed, but Antonio is co-president of the Gold Key Student Ambassadors, co-president of the Teach Club, and president of Phi Eta Sigma, the International Honor Society.

She bubbles energy yet finds a way to balance her activities and achieve high marks. She's made Dean's List every term so far.

She also pairs her energy with a can-do attitude.

"You can do anything that you put your mind to," Antonio said. "There is never a time in life where you should be afraid of achieving something. Set a goal, make a plan, and go after it."

Clearly following her own advice she was undaunted by the book-writing process.

Antonio chose to write a children's book about a young boy named Eugene. He is an elementary-aged student with a physical disability. His classmates realize his wheelchair makes it difficult for him to participate in field day activities. But the class members learn that Eugene is capable of amazing things and the book reinforces the values of kindness, acceptance, and inclusion.

"When I was in school, there were times when children were mean to each other," Antonio said. "But I was lucky, my family instilled in me the need to be kind. And my education classes set a foundation for inclusion. They showed me what inclusion can look like in the classroom and how we can encourage and foster acceptance."

"Maria's book comes at a perfect time. A recent focus on social justice principles and education equity has rendered general education accessible to a broader range of learners, including those with disabilities," said Stephanie Johnson, Assistant Professor of Inclusive Special Education, Elmira College. "Inclusion, the term used for educating students with disabilities alongside their peers in the general education setting, has exhibited tremendous promise and has become a major focus in our schools. Maria's book demonstrates how inclusion can be good for all students."

Once the book was written, she began the process of finding a publisher.

"It was surprising how seamless it went," she said. She secured Halo Publishing International and has been promoting her book since it launched in August. Antonio has done media interviews, book signings, and created a program with area schools to spread the book's message.

"I love that Maria's book talks so much about kindness and inclusion," said Amy Reed, an Elementary Teacher at Canaseraga Central School. "The way that the message in the book is portrayed is very easy for young children to understand. It is also a topic that should be approached more often."

Reed said her students were very interested in the book as Maria read to them and were eager to talk about the book when she finished.

"Many of them were able to understand the message in the book without even being told. They had many interesting questions and comments about the book's messages," said Reed.

Antonio is pleased with how well the book has sold so far and said she has only just begun her book-writing career. As she plans her future, she envisions herself teaching and writing at the same time.

"My goal is to add more books to my classroom collection," she said.

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