Like so many people over the years, Catherine Fratianni Guevara first connected with Saint Rose through her child. Unlike most, however, her son, Pedro Guevara-Fratianni, has never been a Saint Rose student – though he has benefited just as much from its supportive programs, faculty, and campus.
Catherine Guevara, known as Katie, became involved with Saint Rose in 2010 when Pedro, then 10, joined the Friday Knights recreational program for young people on the autism spectrum. She joined the College administration a year later, becoming a key member of the education staff, and today serves as secretary to the dean in the Thelma P. Lally School of Education. Mother and son have been highly engaged members of the community ever since – a family that contributes to the life here much as they benefit from it.
“Katie and Pedro have enriched the lives of so, so many students and faculty through their presence on campus,” said Susan DeLuke, an associate professor of special education who started Friday Knights. “Everyone knows Pedro, the ‘mayor’ of the Lally School of Education.”
One night a month, Friday Knights fills an academic building with kids and teens who enjoy yoga, history trivia, theater, video games, crafts, and dozens of other activities. The first of its kind, the program helps young people with communication barriers to interact doing what they love.
A quiet child who loves swimming, baking, and music, Pedro instantly took to an environment where he could be known for his interests, rather than limitations. Pedro made a best friend, Friday Knights volunteer Aidan Jones, who eased his loneliness, helped him find social connections and shared moments working toward a common goal.
At a corresponding parents group, Guevara learned about speech therapy offered at the College’s Pauline K Winkler Center speech-language-hearing clinic.
Pedro joined. His mom liked what she saw.
“I was so thrilled by the quality of people and the quality of students my son was working with. I thought it would be a great environment to work in,” said Guevara.
In 2011, she got the job as assistant to the dean. The position has proven an ideal match for a woman who loves being on a college campus. An Albany native, Guevara graduated from Buffalo State University with an English degree, worked for Boston College, the Boston City Council, and Harvard’s Kennedy School. Along the way, she earned a graduate certificate in management from Radcliffe.
Saint Rose gave her another opportunity in higher education. Seated outside the office of Interim Dean Terri Ward, Guevara is part of a small staff that guides future teachers from their first class to visits back to Saint Rose as experienced educators.
“I do lots of regular office admin work,” she explained, “and try to be solution-oriented in terms of providing service to a wonderful group of faculty, and showing up for students any way that I can”
And often, at the end of the day Pedro walks over from the Winkler Center. Now 19, he continues his education at the Wildwood School and takes part in speech therapy at Saint Rose.
People call Pedro by name when he and his mom eat together in the Camelot Room or take walks on the Campus Green – and especially one Friday night a month. He helps out at Friday Knights, delivering items and putting them away later. He has also taken part, and a leadership role, with Summer Daze, a one-week camp based at Saint Rose.
“I have made some lifelong friends in the school of education and I am so grateful for the support I receive and especially for all the kindness to Pedro,” his mom said. “I feel the School of Ed. has helped me raise him.”