March 2, 2023

Full circle: Remembering former LDP student, Summit employee

Communication did not come easily for Margaret Usiak as a child. She did not speak and would point or gesture to things that she wanted. Her older sister, Jessica Usiak, often spoke up for her to help communicate Margaret’s wants or needs.

At age 4, Margaret was evaluated and referred to the Language Development Program (LDP) in 1986 to receive speech services.

“I still remember my mother sitting me down and saying, ‘You need to stop talking for your sister. We know you’re trying to help, and you want what’s best for her. She needs to do this for herself, and she needs to learn,’” said Jessica, who currently works as a transition specialist at Summit Academy.

Margaret learned quickly and eventually moved into a district school. She went on to graduate high school and earned many advanced degrees. She credited LDP for her success because of the critical communication skills she learned during her time as a student.

Eventually LDP, now known as The Summit Center, would come back into both Margaret and Jessica’s lives as they started careers.

“I had just gotten out of college and saw Summit was hiring,” Jessica said. “I remembered the way LDP helped my sister, and I’ve always been the caretaker type, so I thought this would be a great fit.”

For 20 years, Jessica has worked for Summit, holding numerous aide positions, and eventually taking on her current role as a transition specialist. During that time, Margaret was looking for a job where she could use her technology and communication skills. Jessica encouraged her to apply for a job at Summit.

“She earned a master’s in educational technology and new literacies from the University at Buffalo,” Jessica said. “She remembered being frustrated and having a hard time communicating her wants and needs as a child. She felt it was important to give back and do for others what had been so monumental for her.”

Eventually, Margaret was hired as the assistant library media specialist at Summit. Jessica said after many years of working in corporate environments, Margaret was overwhelmed by the positivity, support, and kindness she experienced at Summit.

Sadly, Margaret passed away in 2020. Jessica said she is remembered at Summit Academy’s Creekside location, where the leisure library has been dedicated in Margaret’s memory.

“She was always quiet, quirky, very intelligent, very hard working, and sweet,” Jessica said. “Her time at LDP opened up a whole new world for her as child. And working at Summit provided both of us with an opportunity to give back and help students develop the skills needed to open their worlds.”