Thank you to our “Bennies” and “Johnies”

March 31, 2016 by Kelly Smith

Spring Break Volunteers

Eleven students from St. John’s University and the College of St. Benedict in central Minnesota spent  their spring break last week volunteering at the Utah State University’s Center for Persons with Disabilities (CPD) and local  disability-related community organizations. The students, both graduate and undergraduate, are part of the Alternative Spring Break program, which pairs students according to their interests with a service spring break experience. Volunteers represented a wide range of disciplines and cited numerous reasons for their service.

“It’s a good experience to gain understanding of different people and sort of broaden your horizons,” stated one of the volunteers.

Students spent the week engaging in a wide variety  of service learning projects including a fun evening bowling with  the TOP Sports participants. Other projects included yard work at the Developmental Skills Laboratory (DSL), a day program for adults with developmental disabilities, and time spent with DSL participants in one-on-one and small group social activities. Other CPD and college projects that were the recipients of volunteer service included Project PEER: Postsecondary Education, Employment and Research, Aggies Elevated, and Up to 3 Early Intervention. Volunteers also helped community organizations, including Deseret Industries and Common Ground, including a day spent skiing and snowshoeing with youth and adults with disabilities.

Reflection time was also allotted each day for students to write their thoughts about their experiences. Local host families housed the volunteers.

More photos are available on our CPD Facebook page.

We’d like to extend a big thank you to the “Bennies” and “Johnies” !

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Minnesotans to spend spring break at the CPD

February 28, 2014 by Sue Reeves

Image of students painting the bull.

Students from the College of St. Benedict give Lil’ Marv a fresh coat of Aggie blue paint in this file photo from March 2013.

Nine young men and women from the College of St. Benedict and St. John’s University in central Minnesota will spend next week at Utah State University’s Center for Persons with Disabilities for an Alternative Break Experience. This will be the third year in a row that students from CSB/SJU have trekked to the CPD.

The group will arrive in Logan on Sunday, March 2 and leave again on Saturday, March 8. They will stay with Cache Valley host families for the week.

The CPD will host a welcome lunch for the students on Monday, March 3 in Room 173. Come and enjoy sandwiches, chips and cookies while visiting with the students and your colleagues.

During their week at USU, the group will engage in activities with participants at the Developmental Skills Laboratory and Project PEER; receive training from Arts Access on leading museum tours for children with disabilities at a USU art museum; meet and share a meal with Aggie Advocates; attend a USU basketball game; visit the Interdisciplinary Disability Awareness and Service Learning class; and spend a couple of days with Common Ground participants at Beaver Mountain.


Students spend spring break at the CPD

March 29, 2013 by Sue Reeves

Image of two woman working on wheelchair

Katie Johnson (left) and Alisha Voigt pull usable parts from at donated wheelchair at CReATE.

Spring break is traditionally the time when college students, particularly those from colder climates, head south for fun in the sun. For many, there will be a beach involved.

But eight students from the College of St. Benedict and St. John’s University in central Minnesota instead chose to spend their free time at Utah State University’s Center for Persons with Disabilities, doing volunteer work, learning about the culture in Utah and spending time with people served by CPD programs. Most had no experience interacting or working with people with disabilities.

This is the fourth year that college students from outside of Utah have traveled to the CPD to volunteer, and the second year in a row for CSB/SJU students participating in their schools’ Alternative Break Experience (ABE).

This week, the students boarded two vans and headed to Salt Lake City to do some work at CReATE, or Citizens Reutilizing Assistive Technology Equipment. CReATE is an initiative of the CPD’s Utah Assistive Technology Program  now housed at the Utah Center for Assistive Technology.

CReATE refurbishes donated mobility equipment like power wheelchairs and scooters, then provides them to people who need them at a much lower cost than new.

According to program coordinator Alma Burgess, the program serves people who don’t have a lot of money, or who may have used up all of their insurance or Medicaid benefits.

“We take a device, or maybe two or three, and take them apart and put them together to make one device,” Burgess said. “If a donated device can’t be refurbished at a reasonable price, it gets recycled.”

Nothing goes out the door for more than $500, said Burgess, and half of that cost is usually batteries for the device. The money that is collected from consumers is called a service fee, and covers the technician’s time for cleaning and refurbishing the device, as well as any new parts that must be purchased.

It’s a significant savings when new power chairs can cost up to $30,000 or more, he said.

Zachary Thompson works 24 hours a week at CReATE, and until recently, picked up donations and made deliveries in addition to refurbishing equipment. With his time so limited, Thompson relies on volunteers like the CSB/SJU students to help keep the warehouse organized and maintained.

From left: Erin Spelz, Kaylee Larson and Shannon Lane move a power chair in the CReATE warehouse.

From left: Erin Spelz, Kaylee Larson and Shannon Lane move a power chair in the CReATE warehouse.

Last year, volunteers from CSB/SJU and from Grand Valley State University in Michigan gave the equivalent of three weeks’ worth of Thompson’s hours to CReATE.

On Wednesday, the students untangled battery charger cords and wrapped them with zip ties, removed battery cables from junk batteries and stripped usable parts from chairs destined for the recycling center. They also cleaned out a storage area and moved some shelving units.

In addition to the trip to CReATE, the students packed their spring break week with a visit to Temple Square and sightseeing in Salt Lake City and snowshoeing at Beaver Mountain with Common Ground. They also observed a music therapy class, met with OPTIONS for Independence, had breakfast with students from Project PEER and spent time with participants at the Developmental Skills Lab.

Katie Johnson, a senior sociology major, is the only member of the group who came to the CPD last year, and says service work is an important part of her life. She hasn’t had a lot of experience with people with disabilities, she said, but is planning a career in the medical field, so this trip is valuable.

A friend of Yixi (Stacey) Chen, a senior accounting major, was a co-leader for the trip to the CPD last year and strongly recommended the experience.

“It’s my last year in college and I wanted to do something interesting and enjoy the rest of the school year,” she said. It’s her first trip to Utah, and her first time working with people with disabilities.

“I feel like we really did a lot to help them,” she said. “If you treat them like normal people, like a friend, it’s awesome.”

Senior nursing major Alisha Voigt, said she wants to gain more experience in working with people with disabilities before she starts her career.

“I wanted to be more confident with people with disabilities … get to know them as people before they become my patients,” she said.

The trip to CReATE, and stripping the usable parts from donated chairs, brought back memories of being with her dad and fixing things in the garage. She also learned why reutilizing assistive technology is so important.

“You see people in wheelchairs and you don’t think about how hard it is for people to get them,” she said.

Image of tangled cords

Spring break students untangled and organized the CReATE warehouse.

Erin Speltz, a sophomore peace studies major, had a lot of volunteer experience in high school, but hasn’t been able to volunteer as much as she would like to in college.

“This is an experience I can’t get on a regular basis,” she said.

She was worked with people with disabilities in settings where the focus was not on their disabilities, but has not had much experience with people who have physical disabilities. She currently works in a theatre where she provides listening devices or other accommodations to people with disabilities.

You’ll always have to be around people with disabilities, she said, and she needed more experience so that it could be integrated into all aspects of her life. And at CReATE, she said with a smile, she learned how to use a wrench.

Sophomore chemistry and Spanish major Katherine Maguire is involved in a service organization at school, and has wanted to go on an ABE trip for the last two years. She’s never worked with people with disabilities, so the week at the CPD has been “awesome,” she said.

Kaylee Larson, a sophomore nursing major, works in the office at school that coordinates all the ABE trips. She works with people with disabilities at her summer job, but always sees them in more of a home setting.

“It’s interesting to see them in more of a school setting,” she said.

Senior math major Shannon Lane and junior computer science major Andrew Zurn found the experience to be a little different than they expected.

“I thought it would be more working with kids instead of doing projects, but it’s good, we’re helping people,” Lane said.

“I’m grateful for the snowshoeing trip with Common Ground,” Zurn said. “It was a lot of fun. It’s definitely been a great experience, one that I’m happy for.”

For more photos of the CReATE trip, visit our Facebook photo gallery here.



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