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Found in Translation: LVC Grad Reflects on Journey

Lebanon Valley College graduate Alix Canciello

Alix Canciello ’10 has loved Spanish since the sixth grade. 

Canciello’s post-high-school graduation plans included going to college to become a pediatric neurosurgeon with a concentration in Spanish. However, after suffering a serious injury to their upper right side of their body when a row of metal lockers fell on them during high school, their plans changed.

“My body wasn’t healing from the catastrophic accident. I couldn’t hold a pencil, so neurosurgery didn’t seem quite so attainable,” said Canciello, who decided to apply to LVC’s Doctor of Physical Therapy Program and be a pediatric physical therapist.

Within Canciello’s first two months at The Valley, their professors noticed something was wrong and asked about the possibility of a traumatic brain injury that was later confirmed. Canciello then pivoted again.

“I decided to major in Spanish education and special education, and minor in psychology,” said Canciello, who thrived with the support from LVC faculty and staff, especially Dr. Deanna Dodson, professor of psychology. “I found out that I excel at working with kids going at their own pace and working 1-1 as a tutor.” 

Canciello works at Kinetic Kids Inc., as a diving coach for a team of athletes with disabilities in San Antonio, Texas. They created the dive program and are responsible for planning practices and competitions as well as communicating with the team, volunteers, and physical therapists. Kinetic Kids is unique in that each program has a coach and pediatric physical, occupational, speech, or recreational therapist.

Many of the families speak Spanish as their primary language, so Canciello regularly uses their Spanish education as a diving coach and a volunteer with other programs including swimming, tennis, and drumming.

“I love watching the athletes succeed and showing them that even though you might have a certain difference, you’re able to be successful and learn skills,” said Canciello, who moved to Texas after winning a national diving competition in San Antonio. “It’s also extremely fulfilling for me when the divers see and understand that I have disabilities myself and do things differently.”

Swimming, specifically diving, has also played a significant role in Canciello’s life. They were a part of the swim team for their four years at LVC. Despite their physical disabilities, they competed for LVC and appreciated the support they received from the swim team.

“It was terrifying because although I’ve always been a diver, my shoulder/arm/hand literally couldn’t be touched, so I was wary of diving into the pool. My teammates accepted me as the one-armed wonder and cheered me on just as much as the best swimmers,” said Canciello. “I loved and thrived on the small, family-like atmosphere at The Valley.”

Canciello joined a plethora of activities during their time at LVC, ranging from the LVC gospel choir to class representative on Student Government and peer mentor to incoming students. They also participated in community service campaigns and studied abroad, becoming one of the first students from LVC to study in Valladolid, Spain.

They thank their various professors for contributing to their success. 

“In the Education Department, learning about different diagnoses and accommodations, I harness Doc’s [Dr. Dale Summers] energy and go with it. Dr. [Diane] Iglesias had an enormous influence on me, sitting in on one of her classes and observing to help us learn to teach a foreign language. I use her ideas each time I plan an activity at the pool,” said Canciello. “I believe that if I hadn’t gone to LVC, I would have fallen through the cracks at a larger school. I wouldn’t have had so many people looking out for me and allowing me to flourish.”

 

-- Josh Hildebrand, LVC Marketing & Communications Student Assistant