Autism Mentorship Program brings together Athletics, community

Already expanding to Ottawa, sky’s the limit for AMP

Josh Mosely and Emilio Frometa have made their community a priority.

It’s an age-old adage that when good people get together, good things happen. Case in point: Josh Mosely and Emilio Frometa. Case in another point: varsity athletes and kids with autism.

Mosely and Frometa met each other through Queen’s football. Frometa, your prototypical friendly giant, was at the tail end of his career, while Mosely, always friendly and now a giant (thanks in no small part to the fantastic staff at Ban Righ dining hall and Queen’s Strength and Conditioning), was just beginning his.

The two spent lots of time huddled together at Ban going over film (they’re both offensive linemen), schoolwork, and eventually, the ins and outs of the Autism Mentorship Program (AMP).

The year before Josh started on at Queen’s, Frometa, the team’s captain and barber, was out for the season with a broken leg, so he could afford to devote some more time to the community. 

It was while he was volunteering with another mentorship program in Kingston that he hatched the idea for AMP.

“I had initially started working with a young man on the spectrum in Kingston, and I saw some limitations in what he was being afforded,” said Frometa in a phone interview with The Journal.

“I thought, ‘Hey, student-athletes are a great resource to leverage.’ We have a lot that we can give back, there's a lot of great skills, and who better to be great ambassadors to the community than the people who bear the flag of their university and the town?” 

“[My mentorship buddy] Michael taught me so much, and I thought, ‘How many more student-athletes can benefit from this, and how many more families can benefit from this?’ That made me decide to pursue this thing and make a difference.”

Frometa’s recognition of this vacuum in the community quickly manifested into a program that boasts scores of Queen’s student-athlete volunteers. 

Since 2017, AMP has paired student-athletes with young people on the autism spectrum and gives the student-athletes the training, the tools, and the opportunity they need to forge a meaningful and long-lasting friendship with their mentee.

Mosely jumped at the opportunity to be involved.

“When Emilio came to me with this idea, and had this vision,” Mosely told The Journal, “I said, ‘Well that's me, I'm in.’ [...] It's a program that I knew I wanted to be a part of and I wanted to help grow.”

Much of Mosely’s family is in fields relating to care—for example, his dad works with people with developmental disabilities—so the skills needed to be a mentor came naturally to him.

Frometa saw this in Mosely immediately.

“There's a lot of things that I saw in Josh—he’s sincere in everything he does, he's an extremely hard worker, he definitely has a good heart.”

“Prior to Josh being the director of the Kingston branch [of AMP], he was a volunteer,” explained Frometa. “For him to be consistent, to work with his buddy, to raise his hand and volunteer himself for extra, over-the-top stuff with the program, it demonstrated to me that […] he was somebody who can help carry [AMP] beyond [where it was then].” 

Mosely has had the same mentee for the past three years, Jim. After a year together, Jim has started to play football himself. 

“He loves it,” said Jim’s dad Jon in a phone interview. “I think the fact that Josh plays [football], Emilio played, it was real at that point. He could actually relate to someone that's played and is playing, and I think that definitely had an influence on him deciding to play.”

Another important part of the mentor-mentee relationship within AMP is that it can help model social behaviours for the mentees.

“They just go out and have a good time, they spend time together and find common ground, whether it's with sports or music or other activities, they become friends.”

“It's cool because Josh is a big guy, they walk around campus and Josh knows people, he’s very outgoing, he talks to people, and it’s been great for Jim to see that.” Jon said. “I think [AMP] provides an opportunity for friendship, but it also models friendship behaviors. They see that, then they can take that away and try and do the same thing.”

AMP goes beyond individual mentorship. Alongside their executive team and with the backing of Queen’s Athletics and the Varsity Leadership Council, Mosely and Frometa undertook a larger variety of initiatives.

They started hosting “AMPed Up” Game Days in the ARC, where Athletics provides free tickets and sensory considerations for the children and their families. Everyone works together to get the kids as close to the game as possible.

“The athletes that are playing in the game will wear the same warm-up shirts that the children are given so that they can kind of see themselves out there,” says Frometa.

The AMP family also came together at Queen’s Football’s Community Day—the kids ran out of the tunnel onto the field with the team before their game. They got autographs and pictures with the athletes, and soaked in the atmosphere on the grass at Richardson Stadium.

As the program and the friendships have matured, Mosely and Frometa have learned as much as they’ve taught.

“I think I've learned amazing, amazing lessons. Understanding, perspective-taking, patience, gratitude,” lists off Frometa. “It's almost like I have a little brother now.” 

As for Mosely, he picked up some traits from Frometa along the way. “[Emilio] helps me to be […] someone with vision. He has such a vision for the Autism Mentorship Program […] He's thinking five steps ahead […] He's instilled that in me, that ability to see something that's bigger than what we’ve got right now, and it's a really cool thing because you need that in a leader.”

That vision, according to Frometa, is to “have the Autism Mentorship Program as a staple volunteering opportunity for student-athletes at every post-secondary education institute across Ontario.”

Leslie Dal Cin, the Executive Director of Queen’s Athletics & Recreation, is fully on board with AMP’s mandate.

“The impact of this experience for our student athletes has been immeasurable,” Dal Cin said in a statement to The Journal. “We have been delighted to support the program and provide testimonials to our peer institutions to assist in the possible expansion to other campuses and communities.”

“Since its inception, AMP has been an exceptional leadership and volunteer opportunity for our student-athletes who are giving back in our community […] AMP has now become one of our departments’ most impactful student-athlete leadership opportunities.”

Last year, Frometa moved to Ottawa to take on a job as a labour relations officer at Canada Post. While he was starting his own new chapter, he was also starting a new chapter of AMP at Carleton University.

There’s now a roster of student-athletes at Carleton who take their mentees to games, go bowling, and help them with their schoolwork.

“We've been able to demonstrate that in Kingston, it's a viable, reliable opportunity for student-athletes and for families,” said Frometa. “We planted the seeds and it started to grow in Ottawa, and I don't think there's any reason why it can't be successful […] across the rest of the province.”

In Ottawa, Frometa learned about a bursary Canada Post offers through the Canada Post Community Foundation, and he, Mosely, and the executive angled AMP, now a registered non-profit, to be in a place where they could be awarded the bursary.

They won $25,000, and their goal of making their program free of cost to the athletes and the families came one big step closer to fruition.

“With $25,000 comes $25,000 worth of expectations. We're in it for the long haul. We just want to make sure we're helping as many families as we can.” 

“What it's all about is deepening the community.”

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