Adopted Student Advisory Panel brings adopted students together

The group aims to educate about adoption and mentor young adoptees


(Courtesy of Alex White)

By Irina Costache, Assistant News Editor

On Sunday, the Adopted Student Advisory Panel of the University of Massachusetts held an event titled the “We Celebrate Adoption Party” to bring together adopted college students and adopted younger students from around the Pioneer Valley.

The event was held in collaboration with the Department of Psychology and Brain Science, who frequently conduct adopted related research through the Rudd Adoption Research Program, as well as the Big Brothers, Big Sisters of Hampshire County, who help pair college adoptees with younger adoptees around the area for guidance and mentorship.

“The main goal of that [mentor] program is just to give that young adoptee exposure to someone older who’s adopted and understands more of what they’re experiencing. So, we put on this event to also have them see more than just their mentor – so they can see other college students who are adopted,” said Ana Dolan, senior psychology major and president of ASAP.

“It’s really cool having a full room where everyone you turn next to, they’re all also adopted,” said Olivia Lyon, a senior majoring in education and math and vice president of ASAP.

ASAP, which officially formed as an RSO in 2016, functions to educate the community, their peers, parents and adoption professionals about their experiences as adoptees as well as adoption as a whole. The group holds bi-weekly meetings where they discuss their experiences and frequently put on collaborative events with the intention of bringing adoptees together and educating the public.

“I think there’s a lot of stigma that comes with adoption and people having this bio-normative view of a family…So I think it’s also kind of just recognizing that adoption is just as real of a family as any other type of family,” said Ana Dolan.

“There’s no standard way that a family can look like and be made up of,” added Lyon.

After realizing that it was difficult to draw in college participants for the mentorship program, Jen Dolan, program manager with the Rudd Adoption Research Program, saw putting on this celebratory event as a way to still bring students together without the added element of time commitment.

The event began with a visual display of how many people in the room were adopted – each adoptee took a step forward to form a circle that represented their shared connection. Afterward, the group engaged in a number of ice breakers, such as a relay race and musical chairs.

Around the room were different stations set up for the younger students to float around, have fun and chat with the older mentors who were manning each station. Some of these tables included a cookie decorating station, coloring books, colorful sand mason jar crafting and a pretzel marshmallow construction site.

Toward the end of the event, the attendees gathered into a circle again as a discussion group. Going down the line, each adoptee shared a little bit of their story of being adopted, including information about the age at which they were adopted and from where. The discussion helped to highlight the similarities between each attendee’s experience, but also show the uniqueness of each person.

Jen Dolan stated that ASAP has worked to make their campus known on campus and around the area through short talks with classes, flyers, the psychology program’s SONA participatory studies program and a two-credit course on Spire (PSYCH 396A.)

She furthered that they are attempting to broaden ASAP participation across all of the Five College Consortium campuses, and that they currently have students from Mounty Holyoke College engaged.

Kristina Honour, a freshman at Mount Holyoke, is one of the students involved. “Right now we’re only trying to get people to the meetings here [at UMass], but we’re also trying to formulate a plan for a Mount Holyoke meeting on our campus. And, actually, we’ve invited the UMass kids to Mount Holyoke.”

“I think they are often alone in their adoption identity…so for them to be able to come together and have that community seems to have been very powerful for them,” said Jen Dolan.

Irina Costache can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @irinaacostache.