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Donor Profiles

Holly Kelly and Andy Lipsky
Holly Kelly and Andy Lipsky

Empowering Neurodiversity

While recognizing and rejoicing our differences are essential components of fostering a healthy and vibrant society, individuals with disabilities often face challenges in feeling included and supported within educational environments. And for some neurodivergent students, they experience alienation from peers, which can negatively affect their self-esteem and prevent them from feeling the sense of belonging that every student deserves. As a result, they are more likely to worry about vital daily interactions that influence their mental health and their performance when not well supported.

Holly Kelly and Andy Lipsky, proud parents of a second year Bronco, would like to change those troublesome facts. Their focus is to help Santa Clara continue our mission of becoming an accessible university that embraces and celebrates diversity, equity, and inclusion by providing the necessary resources for all our future leaders to thrive. Holly and Andy have generously established the Lipsky Family Fund for the Office of Accessible Education Executive Function Coach. Their thoughtful contribution will support a full-time qualified staff member, specializing in this field who will assist neurodivergent students’ ability to successfully navigate the challenges of school and adult life, guiding them in planning ahead to complete assignments, and breaking down large tasks into smaller ones to make it more manageable. This position would help ensure there is a plan of action—such as coordinating a schedule to tackle a lengthy research paper versus working on it the night before it’s due. As Holly says, “Executive function is really at the center of ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). It is what undermines learners with deficient working memories.” She adds, “Executive function tutors insert accountability into the equation. Students with learning differences can't live without it.”

As engaged members of the SCU community and co-chairs of the Parent and Family Leadership Council, Holly and Andy have been instrumental in bringing more awareness about neurodiversity, but also the current needs and potential expansion of the Office of Accessible Education (OAE). They are so passionate about the importance of having ample, certified OAE staff in order to meet the demands of today’s students, that they are making multiple matching gift challenges for the Day of Giving (DoG) on April 10th, increasing their impact further while inspiring others. They are both hopeful that the kind of transformational education students receive at Santa Clara can also help to change the perception of neurodivergent students in order for them to be fully accepted, remain their authentic selves, and be celebrated for it.

Holly states, “There is a reason why so many gifted students and their families select Santa Clara University.” And adds, “The University is brilliant at creating great professionals and educating young people so that they have all the tools they need to succeed. They're equally as good at creating compassionate people who give back to the world.” It is in this spirit that we can be mindful of recognizing the value of neurodivergent students’ contributions, which are many. After all, it is diversity that adds value and richness to our institution’s culture.

While additional work toward more accessible education is still needed, it is worth taking the time to celebrate the landmarks reached so far and express gratitude to incredible, committed parents like Holly Kelly and Andy Lipsky who share our vision to become a more inclusive, socially aware, and diversity-embracing campus.

- Carrie Jensen