Economist visits NM six times in four months

June 24, 2014 by Sue Reeves

image of Mustafa Karakaplan

Mustafa Karakaplan

Mustafa Karakaplan, co-investigator and cost-benefit study lead for the Start Smart project, visited New Mexico five times during his first three months of employment at Utah State University’s Center for Persons with Disabilities. Start Smart, a project of the CPD, measures the outcomes of children in New Mexico who receive an extra 25 days of school for grades K-3.

Karakaplan received a Ph.D. in economics from Texas A&M and had worked in San Marcos at Texas State University before moving to Corvallis, OR. He and his wife, Sunny, spent six months in Corvallis before moving to Logan at the end of February.

“Utah is a better home for us,” he said. “It suits us better. We love the people.”

The couple, originally from Turkey, also love the Utah weather.

“In Turkey, there are four seasons,” Karakaplan said. “We’re kind of used to snow. I don’t think it will be an issue.

Data for the Start Smart project is collected in New Mexico, so Karakaplan has made several visits and found the cities to be as varied as the landscape.

“It has been an experience I didn’t expect to see in the United States,” he said.

Karakaplan’s first visit to the state was during the move from San Marcos to Corvallis.

“After El Paso, the landscape looks very different,” he said. “It looks really poor. Texas is really rich, but New Mexico is like a contrast to that. You feel the poorness when you cross the border.”

His first trip for Start Smart came two weeks after he started working at the CPD, with a visit to Albuquerque.

“It looks like a midsize to large U.S. city, but the Spanish architecture is really unique,” he said. “It has old-style Spanish-European style of houses.”

Santa Fe was next, and it felt very different than Albuquerque, he said.

“The streets are so small, and the buildings are so short,” he said. “They want to preserve that style. It’s very unique. I liked it. There’s no place like Santa Fe in the United States. It’s like medieval Europe or a Spanish colony in Mexico.”

Gallup is a poor town economically, Karakaplan said.

“There is nothing there in terms of resources,” he said. “It’s all desert and casinos … it felt like the edge of the world. I was curious about how they’re still here. There should be something, otherwise these people wouldn’t be here.”

Deming and Gadsden are nice, smaller towns, but again, he had the feeling of being in the middle of nowhere.

By the time he made it to Roswell, he was used to the desert, he said.

“Roswell is famous for aliens, so I was really surprised,” he said. “Roswell is really well-developed, with beautiful houses and trees everywhere. I didn’t really expect that in the middle of the desert.”

Hobbs is close to Lubbock, and smells like the oil rigs that dot the landscape, he said.

“You start feeling like you’re in Texas,” he said. “It felt like it was a Texas town, really well developed. There is huge revenue generated by the oil rigs.”

The purpose of the first round of trips, Karakaplan said, was to introduce himself to the people he will be working with.

“You wouldn’t talk about the cost of teachers and salaries with someone you wouldn’t know,” he said.

Future trips will be to gather data for the cost analysis, he said. There are two questions to be answered: first, does the summer program improve student achievement, and second, is the program cost effective.

“The cost component is crucial,” he said.


Aggies Elevated: Making history

June 20, 2014 by Sue Reeves

Image of Sarah Stone

Sarah Stone

A new pilot program, housed at the Center for Persons with Disabilities at Utah State University, will make history when the fall semester starts in August. The program, called Aggies Elevated, offers an inclusive post-secondary college experience for young adults with intellectual disabilities.

Aggies Elevated is the first program of its kind in Utah and is one of only a handful of programs west of the Rocky Mountains. The first cohort of eight students was on campus last week for Student Orientation and Registration (SOAR) and will return in August to begin working on a two-year certificate that will emphasize independent living skills and employment opportunities.

The students were chosen through a rigorous application and interview process. They will live in on-campus housing and attend inclusive classes with their neurotypical peers.

Sarah Stone, a Cache Valley native and a graduate of USU’s special education transition specialist master’s program, is the director of Aggies Elevated. She also earned her undergraduate degree in special education with an emphasis on severe disabilities at USU. She taught for a total of five years in the special education life skills classroom at Sky View High School in Smithfield, and for one year at Birch Creek Elementary School, also in Smithfield.

“I’ve been working with people with disabilities since middle school,” Stone said. “It’s been a passion of mine for a long time.”

Stone said the students who have been accepted into the program

The program will also give back to the university, Stone said, by supporting the Disability Resource Center and the Academic Resource center to serve the “in-betweeners,” or students who may not be eligible for accommodations, but still need a little bit of support.

“We can offer support and accommodations for professors and students to make their education experience as successful as possible,” she said.

Stone said the Aggies Elevated students will face the same challenges as any other college freshman.

“They’re just like any other student,” she said. “They’ll be learning and growing, learning how to read body language, and like any other freshman, they’ll struggle with homesickness, waking up on time and getting to class on time.”

Peer mentors and tutors will provide support to the students as needed.

The Aggies Elevated program space, located in CPD 174, will be sort of like a “home room,” Stone, said—a safe space where the students can ask questions and know they’re welcome. Study groups, which will supplement what is being taught in classes, will meet there, and students can practice social skills in an informal way.


For more information on Aggies Elevated, click here.

Follow Aggies Elevated on Facebook here.

View “Aggies Elevated: Opportunity” on YouTube here.



CAC Corner: Art is essential

June 19, 2014 by Sue Reeves

By James D. Kreutzberg, executive director
Cache Valley Center for the Arts

19142961.thbThe life of the arts, far from being an interruption, a distraction in the life of the nation, is very close to the center of a nation’s purpose – and it is the test of the quality of a nation’s civilization. –JOHN F. KENNEDY

I believe the arts are essential to the life of a nation. It is therefore essential the arts are accessible to all. There are many arts organization committed to welcoming everyone. I am highlighting Art Access of Salt Lake City. Take a few minutes to review their 12 programs dedicated to access and inclusion. If you are inspired as I am by their work, share this information with groups in your community.

Art Access conducts twelve mission-driven programs yearly, which are described briefly below:

(1) Art Access Gallery is an access point through which artists with disabilities can join the mainstream arts community by exhibiting their artwork together with artists without disabilities. It is also an important way for patrons to further develop an understanding of people with disabilities and disability issues in Utah.

Our visual arts workshops – (2) Kindred Spirits, (3) Teen, (4) Adult, and (5) Veterans – are taught by professional artists and enable participants of all ages and abilities to create art in an inclusive and accessible environment.

(6) Our Partners professional artist mentoring program matches emerging artists with disabilities or those with limited access to the arts one-on-one with professional artist mentors.

(7) Our Artist Residencies bring arts professionals to facilities such as rehabilitation centers, care centers, senior centers, and other service venues.

(8) Our Integrated Arts in Utah Schools program provides arts education services to students, ages 3 to 22, who receive special education services in Utah schools and in other disability service venues.

(9) Our Literary Arts program provides creative writing workshops in facilities where adults and teens with disabilities live or gather, runs a community writing group, produces an annual literary magazine, and conducts a disability and literature book group.

(10) Our Theatre Arts program seeks to educate the public to respect differences through plays produced by our partner, PYGmalion Productions.

(11) We loan our Permanent Collection of artwork by Utah artists with disabilities to community organizations.

(12) Finally, Everyone Welcome, a training program for docents and staff at Utah cultural facilities, focuses on accessibility and inclusion.


Heidi’s Happenings: May, Moms and movies

June 12, 2014 by Sue Reeves

Heidi Hill is a guest blogger for the CPD’s Developmental Skills Laboratory (DSL), a day program for adults with disabilities. Heidi loves to type and each month she’ll be sharing the fun activities that she and her “buds” are doing at DSL.

Image of group under airplane wing.

Heidi and her DSL buds on a field trip to Hill Air Force Base.

We had a great month in May! With warmer weather we got to go outside a lot and see the miracle of springtime! We had a wonderful picnic at First Dam and saw ducks and ducklings, geese and goslings. We took bread crumbs for our feathered friends to eat.

May is special because of mothers! We worked very hard and made Jolly Rancher candy wreaths for our moms! We also baked lots of treats for them and had a wonderful Mother’s Day program where Heid and all her buds told their moms how much we love them!

We also went in three vans downhill to this one movie theater. We watched “The Bears” and it was one good flick! Then, while there, we enjoyed buttery popcorn and drinks. Heidi munched upon kernel-free, buttery popcorn. After everyone watched this wonderful flick, everyone remembered to just kindly thank those nice men for letting the DSL buds come down to this building to view that flick! We also went to the park and had delicious spud-nut doughnuts!

We also had our big field trip to Hill Air Force Base! DSL buds saw all kinds of cool planes and we even ate lunch under the wings of one giant airplane? The buds saw so many planes, but the most impressive one was an Air Force One jet. That is the plane that the President of the United States of America rides in. The buds did learn that this was an older Air Force One jet and not the one that President Obama uses.

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Soccer and cultural diversity

June 10, 2014 by Sue Reeves

By JC Vazquez

Image of soccer players.Over the past few months I have spent time providing and polishing cultural and linguistic competence training among the various divisions at the CPD and other agencies/organizations outside the university. One of the areas of emphasis is to better understand the diverse community we serve. Understanding some cultural practices and history is imperative to relate, establish relationships of trust and deliver services in an appropriate and sensitive manner. The more we know about our clients, partners, families and people we serve, the better off we become at establishing relationships of trust and quality service delivery. This month we celebrate one of the most celebrated sports in the world—soccer.

One of the most exciting and world-wide viewed sporting events is about to begin this week, the FIFA World Cup of Football (soccer in the United States). Soccer is one of the most celebrated sports in the world. The cultural diversity of the participant nations will be displayed in Brazil, the host nation for the tournament. The eyes of the world are in one nation, because of the beauty of the game and what it does to unite the whole planet.

Every four years, a nation is selected to host the tournament (similar to the Olympics). This year Brazil is the hosting nation. It is said that the sport “wasn’t born there, but it is the nation that embraced it and perfected it, so it is going home.”

The tournament begins on June 12 with the opening ceremony and followed by the Brazil vs. Croatia game. The final game will take place in Rio de Janeiro on July 13.

Thirty-two nations will compete for the coveted World Cup trophy. The host nation, Brazil, is a strong favorite, but power-house and current world champion Spain, as well as Argentina and Germany, are also strong candidates to take the trophy. No European nation has won the Cup in the American continent, however.

The United States, under the direction of German head Coach Jurgen Klinsman, will be a strong contender. They have been regular participants during the last five World Cups, doing a good job advancing to the second round.

The games will be televised in different television networks, many of those in ESPN and ABC. I encourage you to watch a game or two and witness a sensational cultural experience!

For more information and details you can visit the FIFA Website at: