College Unbound: Tell me about your project.
Chris Suchmann: My project is called Rock On, Go Wild. The name was derived from the catchphrase from my son’s movie, Spring Break Zombie Massacre. My son, who has Down Syndrome, has been encouraged to be authentic to who he is and, in that process, the many facets of his personality have come out! And he doesn’t fit society’s picture of what someone with Down Syndrome looks like. Helping them make the movie was an incredible and inclusive experience and we learned so much about each other. At the end of it, my takeaway was “Wow, that was so cool!” I realized other people needed this experience. Also, I wanted to help other people with intellectual limitations or disabilities have that experience and the freedom to express themselves creatively.
The mission of my project is to find people with intellectual limitations who have a creative vision and help them bring their visions to life! It’s about creating an environment for people to be awesome. And if you give people the right environment, people will definitely be awesome!
CU: Was there a specific moment from the movie-making experience where you really felt that this should be your project?
CS: Not really. I think every step of the way, I felt like this is work I should be doing. Rock On, Go Wild is just continuing a movement that started years ago and we are just making use of the circumstances in which we find ourselves: a more understanding world, an education that allows for discovery, and the ability to bring people together, easier. Whatever I’ve done, this project has made an impact all through the project because I’m doing it in a very public way!
CU: What is the next step in your project?
CS: Catching up on my homework is my first step [laughs]. Right now, I am focusing on the structure of Rock On, Go Wild. I am formally applying for 501(c)(3) status and also researching other non-profit organizations whose business models we could emulate. I am also trying to research a way that Rock On, Go Wild can be not-for-profit but not have to fundraise so often. And eventually, we will need a space. But the main thing I want to get going next is continue advocating for Rock On, Go Wild.
CU: How did you come to College Unbound (CU) and what effects have you seen in your life as a result of being at CU?
CS: Well, when I graduated high school, I was going to take a year off. But that one gap year turned into three gap years. But I grew up upper-middle class and education was really important so I enrolled in college classes and, after one semester, I realized I still wasn’t ready for college. So I left to get more life experience. Seven years went by, and I started taking night classes at Rhode Island College. But, between work and raising a family, I had to defer my education and stop taking courses. Twenty years after that, when my kids were grown-up, I got referred to CU from a family friend and so I just decided to attend an Open House and I got accepted. There was no epiphany, the clouds didn’t open; I just decided to do it. And after this year with CU, I’m glad to have done it and I’m really ecstatic about what is to come in the future.
CU: In the spirit of giving back and using your voice to help others, who would you like to spotlight for helping you and your project thus far?
CS: I would want to highlight my entire cohort. I think we are doing a great job. Everyone has grown so much, personally and academically and it’s wonderful to see. I really feel like I’ve made close friends and created this strong “second family”.
CU: Is there anything else you would like to say about your project, yourself, or CU?
CS: It’s been a great year with my cohort! CU Solo started over a year ago and it’s been a great year!