The Center for Persons with Disabilities at Utah State University

Aggies Elevated to be subject of documentary

April 13, 2015 by Sue Reeves

Image of visitor and student.

Filmmaker Ben Stamper observes during a recent Aggies Elevated class.

A documentary filmmaker from New York City will be at Utah State University the week of April 20 to document the Center for Persons with Disabilities’ Aggies Elevated program.

Ben Stamper visited the campus recently to learn more about the program, and spent a day with the students and program staff. Stamper learned about Aggies Elevated through Beth Foley, dean of the Emma Eccles Jones College of Education and Human Services. Foley is also acting as associate producer of another film he’s creating about an artist on the autism spectrum.

“I’m excited about this project,” Stamper said. “It seems like a good fit for me to make, after seeing what you’re doing out here. My goal is to create a dialogue, and ultimately to expect more from people with disabilities. Disability is only a small section of this life. It doesn’t define who they are or what they’re about. We need to instill respect for people by seeing their perspective … Respect and dignity is at the heart of it.”

Stamper envisions a student-centric approach to filming.

“It will really be from the students’ perspective–why they’ve come here and what they’re getting out of it, rather than the type of approach that promotes what it is from everyone else’s perspective,” he said.

During his recent visit, Stamper sat in on a meeting between Aggies Elevated student Jenna and her mentor, Shelby Foster, and was impressed with the amount of information that was covered.

“They talked about four or five different areas, from social strategies to schedules to homework to accountability with health habits, to life goals and planning for extracurricular activities,” he said. “I was impressed with Shelby–she really had a handle on providing accountability with no judgment. She told Jenna, ‘the important thing is that you’re honest with yourself.’ It was more the spirit of ‘this is important to do for yourself.’”

Stamper’s visit showed him the program’s expectations for the students always push them outward.

“(Staff) provide support, but real challenge,” he said. “That’s how any of us learn. This is not failure. As a parent, the hardest thing to do is to stand back and watch a child fail. Aggies Elevated provides something that’s very different than a parent can provide in a home environment. I imagine this transforms (the parents’) view and approach of parenting as well.”

For more information on Stamper and his work, click here.



Management class takes on Up to 3 project

April 10, 2015 by Sue Reeves

Image of students building fence.

From left: Starr Fowler, senior aerospace engineering major from Hurricane; Michael Zajac, junior marketing major from Sandy; Cade Jones, finance/economics/pre-law major from Clearfield; and Spendlove.

Eleven members of the MGMT 3110 class at Utah State University gathered in North Logan one sunny afternoon with a mission: to build a fence. The recipient of the 6-foot-tall cedar fence is a client of the Up to 3 Early Intervention program at USU’s Center for Persons with Disabilities.

The purpose of the class, said Landon Spendlove, a junior accounting major from West Point, is to teach students the basics of how to be a manager.

“The main project is supposed to benefit an individual or a charity, and we decided to go with a service project,” Spendlove said. “Although it’s a group project, we all have different parts of the project to oversee, so we have to learn how to collaborate with other managers as well.”

Last year, members of the same class did several activities with participants at the CPD’s Developmental Skills Lab, a day program for adults with severe disabilities. Activities included working in the accessible community gardens and a mini money lesson using tokens with which participants could “buy” pizza toppings.

Student researchers present at Research Week

April 8, 2015 by Sue Reeves

Image of a playground.

Photographic activity schedules are used to help ASSERT students interact appropriately on the playground and other situations.

Two doctoral students with ties to the ASSERT (Autism Support Services: Education, Research and Training) Program at Utah State University’s Center for Persons with Disabilities will present their findings at a Research Week event.

Nina Gerencser and Jessica Akers are students in the Applied Behavior Analysis track of the Disability Disciplines doctoral program under Tom Higbee, director of ASSERT. Gerencser is a third-year student and Akers is a fourth-year student. They will give an oral presentation at 11 a.m. Thursday, April 9, at Merrill-Cazier Library.

Gerencser’s research project is an evaluation of interactive computer training to teach parents to implement photographic activity schedules. Akers’ research project involved using photographic activity schedules to learn to play appropriately on playground equipment.

“At ASSERT, we use the photographic schedules to promote inclusive play and social interaction,” Gerencser said.


Aggies Elevated student to climb for a cause

April 6, 2015 by Sue Reeves

Troy Shumway

Aggies Elevated student Troy Shumway will climb Mt. Kilimanjaro in June to raise funds for the program.

What would you do for a program that changed the course of your life?

Troy Shumway is climbing Tanzania’s Mt. Kilimanjaro—at 19,341 feet, the highest mountain on the African continent—in June 2015.

He’s doing it to raise awareness—and money—for Aggies Elevated, a privately funded, two-year program at Utah State University’s Center for Persons with Disabilities.

Aggies Elevated, whose tagline is “Climb Higher,” offers a real-life college experience to young adults with intellectual disabilities. Young adults who have the same dreams and aspirations as other college students, but who, until recently, have not had the same opportunities.

Troy is one of those students. The 20-year-old San Diego, Calif., native, who loves Marvel comics and action movies, is completing his first year at Aggies Elevated and has experienced the program’s benefits first-hand. And now he intends to pay it forward, by climbing higher than he has ever has before.

“It would be great to have other kids with disabilities be able to come to college and learn to be more independent, like I did,” Troy said. “

Troy wants to use his climb to give another student the opportunity he’s embraced at Utah State. He wants to raise $40,000—the amount it costs to fund the academic and social supports including mentors, tutors and staff—for one Aggies Elevated student. (Anything over $40,000 means additional students can be supported!)

To donate, click here.

There are five giving options:
$19                 Mt. Kilimanjaro is more than 19,000 feet high.
$98                 Mt. Kilimanjaro is more than 9,800 miles from Troy’s hometown of San Diego.
$130               The cost per school day to support each Aggies Elevated student.
$300               $1 for each school day of the Aggies Elevated program.
$??                   A donation amount of your own choosing, for the most adventurous!

Donations to Aggies Elevated at Utah State University are tax-deductible. You will receive a receipt of your donation via e-mail.

Visit the Aggies Elevated web site here.

“Like” the Aggies Elevated Facebook page here.

To send your donation via check, or to inquire about corporate or ongoing support for Aggies Elevated, contact Shane Johnson at 435-797-9070.

Media inquiries, contact Sue Reeves at 435-797-1977.


Class offers disability awareness

April 3, 2015 by Sue Reeves

Two students in a classroom.

IDASL students participate in a class exercise designed to let them experience sensory differences.

The Interdisciplinary Disability Awareness and Service Learning (IDASL) Program at the Center for Persons with Disabilities offers USU students opportunities from a variety of disciplines to increase their awareness, knowledge and understanding of people with disabilities and their families across the life span. The interdisciplinary focus can benefit all students as they begin their careers.

The program is currently recruiting students for the 2015-2016 school year. There are stipends available for students who will participate both fall and spring semester in the seminar (Friday afternoons, 1-4 p.m.) and complete additional service learning hours at community agencies that provide activities for children or adults with disabilities. Students are not required to register for course credit to receive a stipend.

Students will participate in seminars and hands on activities with parents of children with disabilities and students or other adults with disabilities.  The instructors and guest lecturers for the program are from several different fields of study.  For more information visit or call Alma Burgess at 797-0253.