Monday, March 14, 2011

Michigan college students volunteer at CPD for spring break

Grand Valley State University students, Laura Lemerand and
Jacob Szocinski, work making toys in the Assistive Technology Lab during
their alternative  spring break. The students volunteered at the
Center for Persons with Disabilities.

By Storee Powell

LOGAN – Tijuana, sunshine and no work is not the kind of spring break twelve undergraduate students from Grand Valley State University are having. Instead, they are in Cache Valley volunteering at the Center for Persons with Disabilities.
This is the CPD’s second year hosting the Michigan university students for the “alternative spring break” said Jeff Sheen, the CPD’s volunteer program coordinator. Last year, students adapted garden tools for those with disabilities and dug mounds of dirt for an accessible playground. This year students are making educational toys and doing outdoor activities like basketball with children with disabilities.
So why did these students drive 30 hours to Cache Valley on their own dime to volunteer at the CPD?
Accounting major, Laura Lemerand, said, “I just wanted to do something useful with my spring break.”

Lemerand spent Monday working among her peers in the Utah Assistive Techonolgy Program's assistive technology lab, building educational toys for Head Start, a national program that promotes school readiness in young children. Most of the students had not used power tools before, but they were not thwarted in the least.
“I’ve never used power tools before,” Lemerand said. “But this is so fun.”
Supervising and instructing the students was Clarissa Barnhill, CPD lab technician. She showed students how to make toys such as blocks and storytelling boards.
Barnhill said, “These toys encourage development in sorting, matching and fine motor skills.”
The CPD wasn’t the only one benefitting from the students’ visit. Many of the volunteers are in a major relating to working with those with disabilities.
Rene Teschke, therapeutic recreation major, said, “I wanted to work more with individuals with disabilities, and this is giving me that opportunity.”
This is the second alternative spring break trip for Jacob Szocinski, a clinical exercise science major. He said, “We like volunteering because it gives us something to take back; I want to do physical therapy for grad school, and this is good learning.”
Sheen said having AT lab experiences is good to provide students with hands-on, concrete learning as well as a first-hand seat in seeing how this work changes people’s lives.

Students Michelle Vader and Rene Teschke
volunteering in the AT Lab making educational toys.
 “Last year some students delivered an adaptive mobility toy to a little girl, and were very changed by the experience seeing her using it, how it improved her quality of life,” Sheen said.
Special education major, Michelle Vader, said, “It is cool to see what’s available here at Utah State University for people with disabilities. We don’t have a center like the one here.”

The Michiganders didn’t just volunteer their time, but their humor as well while learning residents of Utah are called Utahans.  
Volunteer Shelby Woodby said, “I was thinking that people from Utah are called Utahtions…But we thought that sounded too much like mutations.”
Sheen said he hopes student volunteers doing the alternative spring break at the CPD will come back every year.
“We’d be happy to have them back year after year,” Sheen said. “It is fun to have a different group of volunteers.”

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