When I was 4 years old, I was diagnosed with autism. My road was not always an easy one for my parents or me. With that though, I achieved many great things in my life to this point. One of those things involves the place I work at today…

In 2007, I began my freshman year at Seton Hall University. I needed 10 hours of community service, and I decided to volunteer for North Central New Jersey’s Walk Now for Autism Speaks event. In college, for the first time, I came out to my peers about being on the autism spectrum. I wanted to become an autism advocate and share my experiences. This event seemed like a no brainer to me.

Once I attended the walk though I realized how huge our community actually is. So many families with individuals on the spectrum try their best every day to make a difference in the lives of their loved ones. Ever since that first walk I’ve been hooked. Eight years later, I still attend the same walk every year with as much excitement as I had in college.

This thank you note goes out to Autism Speaks for giving this opportunity to our community and for everything you do. When I started to get more involved with the walks, it led to an internship within Autism Speaks in 2010, a consulting job for three years with them while finishing college and then when I graduated college a full-time position with the organization. Having the opportunity to work in a field I studied in college while also spreading awareness for autism has been a dream come true for me.

This March will be my two-year anniversary since I started with them full-time, and I will continue to be grateful for the opportunities they’ve given me, as well as the people I’ve met along the way. They took a chance on me, and I’ll be forever thankful. I now get to make an impact in the lives of countless people with autism. I hope I can continue to do this for many years to come.

This post originally appeared on The Mighty here.