Earl Nightingale Scholarship
HOMETOWN: Jersey City, N.J.
SCHOOL: Seton Hall University, South Orange, N.J.
STATUS: Graduate Student
AREA OF STUDY: Strategic Communication & Leadership
Diagnosed with autism at age four, Kerry Magro isn’t someone you would expect to have a passion
for public speaking. For most of his life,
he has undergone intensive therapy and
worked with speech coaches to learn
how to use his voice. To advocate for
himself and others with disabilities, he
founded Student Disability Awareness
(SDA) in 2008, the first group of its
kind at Seton Hall University. Magro is
currently working for Autism Speaks,
speaking at events around the nation,
and writing his third book.
What motivated you to speak?
Growing up with autism, I had to overcome several difficulties. I wanted to
become a disability advocate speaker
because I want to share my story.
Recently, I have become more of a
motivational speaker, providing guidance to high school kids on autism and
What are some common misconcep-
tions about autism?
The biggest misconception is that
people think autism is a disease that
you can catch from others. Autism is
really a communication disorder characterized by receptive and expressive
language delays. People are born with it
and it is not contagious.
What kind of extracurricular activi-
ties are you involved with?
I am the founder and president of the
Student Abilities Association, and a
member of Alpha Phi Omega and the
Sports Management Association.
Why did you decide to form the SDA?
I founded SDA during my undergrad
sophomore year because the campus
was lacking an organization that focuses
on disability-related issues and awareness. We participate in annual events
and hold roundtables each month to
discuss a specific disability.
What were your undergraduate areas
I majored in Sports Management
because it has been my lifelong dream
to work for a professional sporting
organization. I played varsity basketball
in high school and was really fixated on
it. My studies taught me a lot about the
business side of sports, and my current
objective is to obtain a position in the
marketing/media relations department
of a sports agency or nonprofit.
What attracts you to the speaking
industry? What scares you?
Growing up, I was involved in
theater, so I am used to memorizing. But I realized that speaking isn’t
all about that; it is really about being
confident and thinking on your toes.
You have to be focused on what you
are saying and be able to improvise
when necessary. I’m getting used to it
now, but I still get anxiety.
Describe one of your recent speak-
Last April, I was asked to keynote
at an autism awareness fair in Jersey
City. I spoke about my life, growing
up in the school system, what chal-
lenged me and what I gained from
those experiences. I also spoke
about autism and why people need
to have a better understanding of it
and fund causes to help people with
What is your book about and when
will it launch?
It is a story about my life as a college
kid with a disability. It is set to launch
in spring 2012.
How will this scholarship aid you in
your career path?
With extensive communication
courses and years of speech therapy, I
am confident in my speaking abilities
and believe I’m on the right track. I
am honored to receive this scholarship and it will help me continue to
fund my education.