Facing Challenge with Optimism and Advocacy

Long before graduating summa cum laude from Rutgers School of Communication and Information, Anthony DeVergillo was an excellent communicator, spreading his brand of optimism. Credits: Dory Devlin

As a Rutgers student, Anthony DeVergillo noticed that so many students were struggling through frazzled, difficult days. So the communications major who ran a popular blog in high school called “The Optimist’s Guide to Life” started a club – called RU Positive.

“I wanted to spread optimism and positivity throughout campus because I felt like everybody was stressed from schoolwork, or was just having a bad day and needing a pick-me-up,” he says. Club members dressed up in Halloween costumes and handed out candy for their first activity. “That was a lot of fun because people weren’t expecting it,” says DeVergillo, who graduated summa cum laude last year from the Rutgers School of Communication and Information.

It’s not that he’s a glass-half-full-all-the-time guy. DeVergillo, who has Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a progressive muscle-deteriorating disease, knows his way around daily challenges. But long ago he chose optimism and hard work as his chief tools to meet them. That’s why he recognizes when others are having a bad day, which he knows can turn on a kind word, or someone simply acknowledging what you’re going through.

Sign Up for E-News

Throughout his academic career, he never allowed Duchenne to define him. Here’s how he put it on his blog: “As this disease progresses, I lose more and more of my muscle function requiring me to constantly adapt my way of doing things. But this hasn’t stopped me,” he wrote. “While Duchenne muscular dystrophy steals my muscle function and independence, what remains strong is my desire to excel in academics and life and to teach acceptance of disabilities, while having fun at the same time.”

Excel, he has.

DeVergillo’s resume was impressive even before he graduated from Bernards High School in Bernardsville in 2011. Already a seasoned public speaker, website designer, video editor and blogger before heading to college, DeVergillo knew he wanted to study communications. After earning his associate’s degree in communications from Raritan Valley Community College, he arrived at Rutgers through the NJ Stars program to earn his bachelor’s degree in communications.

Jack Grasso’s “Principles of Public Relations” was one of his favorite classes, and Grasso remembers that DeVergillo came to every session motivated, interested and eager to contribute. “He did extremely well on all of the assignments and all of the exams and earned an A with flying colors for the course,” Grasso says.

Now, DeVergillo wants the chance to do the same in the workforce. He has done a few pro bono and freelance projects, but he is eager to work on a team, create and contribute in a bigger way. Finding an employer willing to see his abilities first is his goal.

“A lot of companies are not really into hiring people with disabilities because they think it will take a lot of work,” he says. “There are accommodations I’d need if I were to work in a company, but they are not that difficult.”


DeVergillo started the RU Postive Club while at Rutgers to spread optimism and a positive message among stressed-out students.

DeVergillo began spreading his message of optimism and acceptance at Bernards High, where his English teacher read two poems he wrote to one of her classes without telling him beforehand. One was called “Outside Looking In,” the other, “Eyes of a Child.” Both reveal a glimpse of what it’s like to live with Duchenne.

Afterward, Janice O’Brien’s class asked if DeVergillo would come talk to them.

“I think people are afraid of the unknown,” he says. “That allowed them to understand my disability and that I go through a lot of the same challenges that they do.”

In all, he spoke to more than 30 high school classes, giving voice to the common ordeals students face, with and without disabilities.

"Anthony offered so much insight into how we treat people with disabilities differently and how he remains optimistic,” O’Brien says. “He is such a positive young man and he inspires people.”

In April, Bernards High School named DeVergillo to its Wall of Honor for his inspirational reach and advocacy work for muscular dystrophy and for people with disabilities.

Through RU Positive’s second event in the spring of 2014 – We Are Positive – musicians, inspirational speakers, poets, Rutgers cheerleaders and football players came together to help raise funds for Camp Promise – East, a summer camp for children and young adults with Duchenne muscular dystrophy, which DeVergillo has attended since he was 18.

He’s also on the adult advisory committee for Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy and has shared his experiences on several annual conference panels. Currently, he’s a member of the Somerset County Advisory Council on Disability Issues, working to make the county more accessible and providing community awareness and education.

A year after his Rutgers graduation, DeVergillo is facing one of his most challenging transitions – finding a full-time job that puts his communications skills to work and advocating for another cause: convincing employers to give people with disabilities true consideration.

“Rutgers gave me a really good foundation in communications for getting out into the workforce,” says DeVergillo, who lives with his family in Bedminster. “Now I need the opportunity.”

The opinions expressed herein are the writer's alone, and do not reflect the opinions of TAPinto.net or anyone who works for TAPinto.net. TAPinto.net is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the writer.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News


Edison Public Library Donation Drive for Edison Animal Shelter

June 6, 2018

The Edison Township Free Public Library is partnering with the Edison Animal Shelter to do a donation drive for the Edison Animal Shelter. There is a checklist of all items that are being accepted at the animal shelter. These checklists can be found above and the donation bins will be available at all three branches. We will be collecting items until the end of June. For more ...

Two Busted in $2.3 Million Perfume Heist from Edison Warehouse, say Feds

June 18, 2018

NEWARK, N.J. – Two men have been charged for their alleged roles in transporting $2.3 million worth of perfume products stolen from an Edison warehouse, according to U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito.

Yunior Estevez, 33, of Hollywood, Florida, and Carlos Duvergel, 53, of Colorado Springs, Colorado, were both charged by complaint with conspiracy and with the interstate transport of stolen ...


Toms River – Mary Stella Whiteman, 97, passed away peacefully Saturday May 19, 2018 in Rose ...
Read more
Piscataway – Reinhard Rudolf Kiefer, 85, died Sunday March 11, 2018 at home. Born in ...
Read more

MCRO Chairwoman Panos Celebrates Re-Election, Promises Party Unity to Defeat Menendez

June 15, 2018

FORDS, NJ-  Middlesex County Republican Organization (MCRO) Chairwoman Lucille Panos of Old Bridge was re-elected to a second two-year term as that organization's chairwoman.  Also re-elected were Edison chairwoman Sylvia Engel as vice-chair, and South Brunswick chairwoman Antonia Kulberda as secretary.  Rounding out the victors was Harold Kane of Monroe, ...

Promise Culinary School Slates Open Houses June 21 and 22 in New Brunswick with Tours, Tastings, Prizes

Promise Culinary School will host open houses for the community and prospective students on Thursday, June 21, from noon to 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., and on Friday, June 22, from noon to 4 p.m. at 211 Livingston Ave., New Brunswick. The events are free and open to the public.

The events will include kitchen tours, demonstrations, tastings, raffles and prizes. Tours and activities will be ...

Rutgers-Camden students who saved man from fire honored by City of Camden

Camden, NJ—The Rutgers-Camden students who saved an elderly man from a March fire at his Cooper Street home were honored by the City of Camden Tuesday night.

Mayor Frank Moran awarded proclamations to Corey Zytko, Jonathan Perez-Gaytan, Matteo Resanovic, Vanessa Solis Palma, Sehwan Park and Tammy Meneses on Tuesday, June 12.

On the night of March 23, the students were hanging out in ...

Upcoming Events


Sat, June 23, 9:00 AM

Quibbletown Park, Piscataway

Piscataway Township Paper Shredding Event

Government Green

Wed, June 27, 7:00 PM

Piscataway Public Library, Piscataway

Empowerment for the Job Search: Applications & ...

Business & Finance

Thu, July 5, 7:00 PM

Piscataway Public Library, Piscataway

Trivia Night at the Library!

Arts & Entertainment

Wed, July 11, 7:30 PM

Chatham United Methodist Church, Chatham

Masterwork’s Summer Sing Three to Feature Fauré ...

Arts & Entertainment

Suspect Charged with Using Sword in Fight Over Parking Spot in Manville

June 18, 2018

SOMERVILLE, NJ  - A Manville man has been charged with aggravated assault and other charges after police say he attacked another man with a sword in a dispute over a parking space.

The victim had attacked the suspect, Jared Razzano, 35, of North 9th Avenue, with a contractor’s four-foot level, according to the Somerset County  Prosecutor's Office, but he has not been ...

A Date with Destiny

Leslie. . . it would be the bomb . . .  if we could go to prom . . . together.


For the record, Leslie is my wife, and this is my openly public attempt at a promposal.  


My twin high school seniors taught me about promposals, those cute, showy, and sometimes over-the-top ways of asking someone special to prom.  This year they have been on both the ...