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University News

GCU’s Amber Rizzi Raises Thousands to Help Children with Disabilities

Georgian Court student Amber Rizzi

Amber Rizzi was born extremely premature, weighing in at just two pounds. A day after she was born, she developed a severe pulmonary hemorrhage along with a massive brain hemorrhage.

“My chance of survival was almost nonexistent and I was given last rites,” recalls Amber, now a junior at GCU. “Fortunately, and quite miraculously, the course of events inexplicably turned around, and two months later, I was homeward bound to begin my life with my wonderful family.”

Amber later developed cerebral palsy, and since then has been on a mission to let the world to know that people with disabilities are just like everyone else.

“I wanted to change the perception that people have of people with disabilities, letting them know that those with disabilities can do things that everyone else can do, sometimes just needing a little help,” she says.

At 15, Amber created the Children’s Voice Foundation (CVF), a 501(c)(3) charitable foundation, which has raised thousands of dollars to help children with disabilities. She has been active with the New Jersey Institute for Disabilities, which serves children and adults with intellectual, developmental, and related disabilities through its school, day programs, and residential services. She was especially helpful in supporting the aquatics center at the organization’s Lakeview School, which has a state-of-the-art hydrotherapy center for children with disabilities.

University’s Support Integral to Amber’s Success

Physical therapist Lauren Castagna helps Lakeview School student Yasti in the Aquatic Center Therapy Pool, of which Amber is a supporter.

Amber originally decided to attend Georgian Court because of the reputation of its School of Education, as she had planned to become a special education teacher. But she changed her major to English with a minor in creative writing and would like to eventually teach at the university level.

She is part of GCU’s The Learning Connection (TLC), a support program for students with learning disabilities or other conditions that affect academic performance.

The Court’s environment has supported her in thriving as a student.

“Georgian Court has the atmosphere that best suits my needs, entirely supportive. When you have concerns or questions, you know who to go to, what to say; and you’re not afraid to say it. The people here want me to succeed,” she says.

Adapted from story by Sanford Josephson in the Fall/Winter 2018 issue of GCU Magazine. Story adapted for the Web by Kristen Fischer.
Photo of Amber Rizzi by Jim Connolly.

Aerial view of GCU.

About Georgian Court University

Founded in 1908 and sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy, Georgian Court University is Central and South Jersey’s only Catholic university. GCU is a comprehensive, coeducational university with a strong liberal arts core and a historic special concern for women. As a forward-thinking university that supports diversity and academic excellence, GCU is known for expanding possibility for more than 2,200 students of all faiths and backgrounds in 35+ undergraduate majors and 10+ graduate programs. The GCU Lions compete in 14 NCAA Division II sports in the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference (CACC). In 2020, GCU was named a Best Value College by Money.com and a Best Bang for the Buck (Northeast) by Washington Monthly. High student retention and graduation rates also make GCU a Top Performer on Social Mobility on U.S. News & World Reports rankings. The main campus is located in Lakewood, New Jersey, on the picturesque former George Jay Gould estate, a National Historic Landmark. Georgian Court, which is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, also serves students at other locations, such as GCU at HazletGCU at Rowan College of South Jersey–Cumberland Campus, and through multiple online certificate and degree programs.

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