New director leads Rich Center for Autism

Melanie Carfolo

Melanie Carfolo

Even in elementary school, Melanie Carfolo felt compelled to help classmates who were struggling. Today, she’s still reaching out to students with special needs as the new executive director of the Rich Center for Autism at YSU.

A YSU alumna, Carfolo is only the second to serve as the Rich Center’s top administrator. She succeeds J. Georgia Backus, the founding director, who retired in September.

Previously, she was director of special education for the East Liverpool City Schools, and she’s also worked in the Warren City, Western Reserve and Struthers school districts.  She holds an Ohio principal license and has served as a special education consultant and school improvement facilitator.  “Ms. Carfolo brings a rich array of experiences with exceptional children,” said Charles Howell, dean of YSU’s Beeghly College of Education.

Carfolo earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and special education from YSU in 1998 and holds a master’s degree in educational administration from Ashland University. She said her field experiences as a YSU undergraduate helped her to find what she considers to be her calling – working in special education. Carfolo and her husband, Mark, also a YSU grad, have two children and live in Canfield.

The Rich Center was established on campus in 1995 as a component of the Beeghly College of Education and has 70 students enrolled, 10 of them attending a satellite center at St. Charles School in Boardman. Carfolo said the Rich Center is exploring the idea of opening more satellite locations. “We have parents driving long distances from Columbiana County, Trumbull County and the Sharon, Pa. area,” she said. “The need is so great.” Creating satellite classrooms in cooperation with local school districts would ease the process of transitioning into regular classrooms – which Carfolo called “the ultimate goal” for Rich Center students.

For more information on the Rich Center, visit