Katie Ceglio: Empowered by Passion

Honors College student Katie Ceglio has a difficult time picking favorites. And while her resume abounds with many interests, involvements and leadership experience, everything can be tied together by one thing: a passion for helping people with what she calls “brain disorders.” While this sums up Katie’s passion singularly, it can more effectively be broken down into two significant facets: Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (IDD) and mental illness.

A senior from Indianapolis, Ind. studying Mathematics and Spanish, Katie credits her involvement in Best Buddies during high school for sparking her passion to help others. Simply put, Best Buddies is a nonprofit organization which seeks to positively impact the lives of people with IDDs through friendship, employment, and leadership. As a member, Katie was paired with someone with IDD, and her resulting “buddy” has become much more. To this day, the pair remain best friends. Having been so strongly influenced by her experience with Best Buddies, Katie was compelled to continue her involvement upon her arrival at Purdue.

During her sophomore year, Katie was Treasurer and Vice President of the Best Buddies chapter at Purdue and helped in leading that chapter to receive the title of “International College Chapter of the Year.” Now, she serves as President of the chapter, which is 53 friendships strong.

Katie recognizes the importance of Big Buddies. “Though not overreaching, I am proud of where Best Buddies is, in part, thanks to all of the dedication I have given it,” said Katie. “[Best Buddies] makes a difference in the lives of so many people. I have also made sure that we have a presence on campus during Spread the Word to End the Word in March (a campaign that encourages the end of the use of a certain word that begins with “R”). If we have gotten just one person to be more respectful and aware with their use of language, then that impact is enough for me.”

However, Katie’s commitment to helping those with brain disorders goes far beyond her involvement with Best Buddies. As a result of her participating in an Honors course on brain disorders her freshman year, Katie has also become involved with the National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI). She now serves as the Purdue chapter’s president. What’s more, Katie conducts research with Purdue’s Autism Cluster. More specifically, she is involved with the special education department, which she explains, “looks at assessment and intervention of challenging behavior in children with autism. Each study helps children communicate their needs and receive assistance, making a significant impact in the quality of their lives.”

Outside of Purdue, Katie has had the opportunity to be a respite care provider, working to provide enrichment and support for individuals with IDDs and their families. After graduation, Katie hopes to pursue a medical degree, but after that, she intends to let her passions continue to guide her.

“I am still exploring ways that I can combine medicine and work with people with IDD. There is a sub-specialty of pediatrics called Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics that may be a good fit for me, or maybe I am a primary care provider specifically for people with IDD. I will just keep searching out opportunities to live out my passions and something should work out!”