Meet the 2018-2019 mentors

Group photo of 2018-2019 mentors.
Front row, left to right: Emmy Moore, Sarah Otteson, Brooke Barnes, and Hanna Evans. Back row, left to right: MyCLIMB Coordinator Savanna Steed, Breanna Anderson, Lindsay Thunell and Spencer Diehl. Not pictured: Anna Berger.

Mentors are the first line of support for Aggies Elevated students, providing 10-12 hours of support per student each week. Mentors are typically upper-level undergraduates or graduate students majoring in a human service field (although, we have had some wonderful exceptions to that!) While they do provide a limited amount of academic support, mentors’ primary role is to help students navigate the complexities of college life. The 2018-2019 Aggies Elevated mentors are:

Breanna Anderson
I am from right here in Logan, Utah, but also like to claim Alaska as home, due to spending many of my summers working there. I am a lover of the outdoors and spend most of my time doing being active. Some of my favorite pastimes include crafting, running, hiking, fishing and recently, hunting. I am a Social Work major with a minor in Sociology and Criminal Justice. I plan to work with adolescent/young adults in a therapeutic setting. I love having opportunities to help others and absolutely love being an Aggies Elevated mentor!

Brooke Barnes
I wanted to be an Aggies Elevated mentor because I am majoring in Special Education, so this would be a great experience before I start teaching. I also love helping people in general and love giving ideas and strategies. I believe I bring lots of things to the table when it comes to being a mentor. I have the past experience of being a peer tutor in high school. I am very organized and like to make sure things are tidy when it comes to keeping track of test/quizzes and other assignments. I am kind, patient, stern, and a friend. While I’m a mentor, I hope I can teach skills that the student will carry with them after they graduate the program. My goal is to get my students to be as independent as possible and want to succeed in their life goals as well as their short-term goals. For me personally, I hope to learn more about how to handle conflicts that may arise.

Anna Berger
I am a senior from Ogden, Utah, majoring in Speech Pathology. I was a tutor for last year at Aggies Elevated. I wanted to be an Aggies Elevated mentor because I love to see students succeed. The best thing about working with my students so far is watching them realize they can accomplish more than they thought. I have enjoyed watching them grow and enjoy their college experience.

Spencer Diehl
I am a senior from Lindon, Utah, majoring in Biology with an emphasis in Human Anatomy. I am planning on applying to dental school in the summer of 2019 with goals to become a pediatric dentist in the future. I was a tutor for the Wednesday night study group for a couple semesters. I wanted to be an Aggies Elevated mentor because I felt like I could contribute to the learning of the Aggies Elevated students through positive and uplifting interactions to help them accomplish their academic and personal goals. The best part about working with the Aggies Elevated students so far are the daily experiences of helping the student overcome a specific challenge they are anxious or stressed about. Helping these students succeed on a daily basis can be mentally challenging and try your patience at times but brings a fulfilled purpose and unique humorous experiences as you work together.

Hanna Evans
I’m a sophomore at Utah State. I’m from Oregon and absolutely love evergreen trees! I’m studying Special Education at USU, play on the Women’s Rugby team and will eat Aggie ice cream at every possible opportunity! I love my friends and family and love the people I work with at Aggies Elevated!

Emmy Moore
I am a sophomore from Kennesaw, Georgia, studying Elementary Education and Special Education. This is my first year with Aggies Elevated and I already absolutely love the opportunity to work daily with incredible students and to learn and grow alongside them and because of them. My passion and love for working with people with disabilities started when I was in elementary school, where I was a peer tutor. These were defining moments in my life, and proved that what I want to be doing most in life is to continue working with such remarkable students. In my spare time I love going on road trips, doing anything artsy, and speaking French, which I learned while serving an LDS mission in the Southern Caribbean.

Sarah Otteson
I am a senior majoring in communicative disorders and deaf education and minoring in psychology and human development & family studies. I’m from Cleveland, Ohio, and my favorite thing about Utah is the mountains and being at USU. I tutored for Aggies Elevated last year and was totally hooked, now I love working closely with my students as a mentor. My favorite thing about Aggies Elevated is seeing the huge amounts of progress the students make and having fun at the activities we plan.

Lindsey Thunell
I’m a native of beautiful Cache Valley, Utah. I’m a senior majoring in Human Movement Science and have been considering a graduate degree in Occupational Therapy or (most recently inspired by Sue) Rehabilitation Counseling. I have always loved working with people with disabilities and jumped at the chance to be a mentor for Aggies Elevated. I love seeing the students achieve their goals and realize their potential. My favorite moments are when my students surprise themselves by doing things they didn’t think they could do! I also enjoy spending time with the students and getting to know them. In my free time, I enjoy playing tennis and pickleball, hanging out, and eating pasta.

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Aggies Elevated at Utah State University believes that all individuals, regardless of ability, have the right to meaningful employment, lifelong learning, self-determination and full community inclusion. Utilizing the MyCLIMB (My Career Ladder to Independence, Maturity & Balance) person-centered planning model, Aggies Elevated students, along with invited family members and/or other stakeholders, will chart their own paths toward independence within an individualized framework of supports that identifies challenges, builds on individual strengths and encourages personal responsibility.

Welcome, Savanna!

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Savanna Steed

Savanna Steed, a Masters student in the Speech Language Pathology department at USU, was hired at the beginning of the current school year as the Aggies Elevated MyCLIMB Coordinator. MyCLIMB is the acronym for the Aggies Elevated person-centered planning process, and stands for “My Career Ladder for Independence, Maturity, and Balance.”

In addition to meeting regularly with students to track their progress, Savanna is the first line of support for the mentors, who provide about 10 hours of support per week for Aggies Elevated students.

While Savanna is new to the position, she is no stranger to Aggies Elevated, having been a mentor for two years, as well as a volunteer tutor.

In her free time, Savanna loves to ride her horses, fish at her family’s cabin, and give horse riding and rodeo queen lessons to youth rodeo participants.

Welcome, Savanna!

*****
Aggies Elevated at Utah State University believes that all individuals, regardless of ability, have the right to meaningful employment, lifelong learning, self-determination and full community inclusion. Utilizing the MyCLIMB (My Career Ladder to Independence, Maturity & Balance) person-centered planning model, Aggies Elevated students, along with invited family members and/or other stakeholders, will chart their own paths toward independence within an individualized framework of supports that identifies challenges, builds on individual strengths and encourages personal responsibility.

Hard work pays off for new student

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First-year Aggies Elevated student Jon with Kareem, his weight training instructor.

The weight training instructor for one of our first-year students sent the following e-mail to the student’s parents. This message is published here with the permission of all involved.

Jon has been doing great! He is always the first student to show up and he always works throughout the entire class. The class structure allows students to choose from a couple of options: sign in and do your own routine or complete a predetermined routine that I provide. While he mostly completes his own routine, he does incorporate some aspects of the routine I provide. The other week I went over small details and tips for squatting and saw him implementing them the very next class.

The majority of my 7:30 a.m. class are students familiar in a weight-room and have different goals, so I place a greater emphasis on subtle form corrections and optimizing exercise order in a workout. Jon loves bench pressing and has been improving, but I am most happy with the progress he is making in trying a few new exercises and adjusting them for his own goals.

Please let me know if you have any other questions or concerns.

Regards,

Kareem

*****
Aggies Elevated at Utah State University believes that all individuals, regardless of ability, have the right to meaningful employment, lifelong learning, self-determination and full community inclusion. Utilizing the MyCLIMB (My Career Ladder to Independence, Maturity & Balance) person-centered planning model, Aggies Elevated students, along with invited family members and/or other stakeholders, will chart their own paths toward independence within an individualized framework of supports that identifies challenges, builds on individual strengths and encourages personal responsibility.

Career Jenga

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Sadie watches as Jonas pushes a block out of the tower during a game of Career Jenga. The occupation on the block was “archeologist,” and the students identified many skills required for it, (including the knowledge of a long list of dinosaurs!).

Students in the Career Exploration 1 class celebrated the end of the assessment phase with a rousing game of Career Jenga!

Since the beginning of the semester, students have been exploring their interests, personality types, work values, work skills and transferable skills with a series of computer-based assessments. These assessments are designed to help the students identify interests and strengths as they begin to determine whether a career is a good fit.

Each Jenga block is labeled with an occupation or career. As a student pulls out a block, the class brainstorms three skills that might be required for the occupation printed on the block. The new cohort has steady eyes and steady hands—the tower only fell once!

*****
Aggies Elevated at Utah State University believes that all individuals, regardless of ability, have the right to meaningful employment, lifelong learning, self-determination and full community inclusion. Utilizing the MyCLIMB (My Career Ladder to Independence, Maturity & Balance) person-centered planning model, Aggies Elevated students, along with invited family members and/or other stakeholders, will chart their own paths toward independence within an individualized framework of supports that identifies challenges, builds on individual strengths and encourages personal responsibility.

Base Camp highlights!

Base Camp, an intensive orientation to college for students in the Aggies Elevated program, started Sunday, Aug. 20 with a pizza party at the new Center for Clinical Excellence at Utah State University. Five returning and eight new students, three mentors, staff and a few family members celebrated the start of the new school year.

Monday’s activities included a group photo, and a discussion of plagiarism and college research in which students were partnered and assigned to create a 5-minute presentation on the topic of their choice. This presentation was a crash course in working with a partner and practicing research, outlining and presentation skills.

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Other Monday seminars included Organization 101, in which students brainstormed ways in which to keep computers, files, backpacks and planners organized; Healthy Campus Living, in which students learned about the myriad food choices on campus and how to make healthier choices; and Becoming a Techie, an introduction to Canvas, Box, Google Calendar, and more. In addition, the students went canoeing on the Logan River at First Dam with Common Ground Outdoor Adventures before returning to campus for a reflection activity with mentors. On Tuesday, the first-year students checked in for Connections. In this class, students will discuss the Common Literature Experience, The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown, and get connected with classmates and campus resources.

 

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Wow, those onions are strong! Making taco salads for lunch at Options for Independence.

After checking in, all the students, along with two staff and two mentors, rode the free Cache Valley Transit District busses to Options for Independence, the local Independent Living Center. There, students planned a lunch of taco salads, made grocery lists, shopped for supplies, and cooked lunch for themselves. After lunch, the student teams gave the presentations that had been assigned the day before.

On Wednesday, the freshmen attended their all-day Connections classes, while the returning students attended an internship orientation meeting and then met with Savanna Steed, a former Aggies Elevated mentor and current MyCLIMB coordinator, to discuss the person-centered planning process.

Connections continued on Thursday and Friday for the new students. Classes officially began at USU on Monday, Aug. 27.

*****
Aggies Elevated at Utah State University believes that all individuals, regardless of ability, have the right to meaningful employment, lifelong learning, self-determination and full community inclusion. Utilizing the MyCLIMB (My Career Ladder to Independence, Maturity & Balance) person-centered planning model, Aggies Elevated students, along with invited family members and/or other stakeholders, will chart their own paths toward independence within an individualized framework of supports that identifies challenges, builds on individual strengths and encourages personal responsibility.

Riding the Aggies Elevated roller coaster

By Dawn Bagley, parent

(Note: “Cannibal” is the name of a roller coaster at Lagoon, an amusement park near Utah State University. Dawn sent this e-mail to Aggies Elevated program director Sarah Bodily and gave permission for us to publish it.)

I met Bryce at Lagoon a couple weekends ago with some of our other children, and went on Cannibal for the first time. I’m not an overly adventurous person, but I felt like I wanted to go on it. I decided to not think too much about what we were about to do and just patiently wait in line, while distracting myself with conversations with the kids. When I got into the stall, waiting to board the ride, I had a minor panic attack, but moved forward, because what else was there to do at this point? Getting buckled in, my anxiety piqued and I started giving the kids instructions on what to do if I had a cardiac event while on the ride. As the doors opened at the top of the ride, I thought, this isn’t so bad, but was also anxious to get the first part of it over with. I like roller coasters, I just don’t like heights. The rest of the ride was over before I knew it, but was exhilarating and full of all of the ups and downs you expect and enjoy from a ride like this, and I would definitely do it again.

Getting Bryce to Utah State in the Aggies Elevated program has been similar to my experience at Lagoon on the Cannibal. When I heard about Aggies Elevated, I instantly knew this was for Bryce and set out on over a year’s process of getting him accepted and ready. During that time, I had to distract myself from thinking about what was about to happen and just plug along, knowing that this would be an amazing opportunity for him. As the semester opened with the Connections class I had a little panic trying to figure out how this was all going to work, but we moved forward, because of two things; I have faith that this was where Bryce is supposed to be, and I also have faith in this program and the people running it. Moving day was filled with last-minute, anxiety-filled instructions to Bryce and his sister on how I thought things should be taken care of in my absence.

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Bryce and Dawn at Utah State University.

The entire time of preparing him to get there I kept telling myself, ‘If we can just get him there it will be fine. If we can just get him there and settled, he will take off.’ I was only slightly prepared for the roller coaster ride of keeping him there. I have to say though; you and your staff did an excellent job priming me for the experience. I was pleased that he contacted me a lot during the first month of being up there because I needed it as much as he did. I got things like:

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My full-time job became keeping him there, which I was mostly prepared for due to you and your staff’s counseling and prep work. At times my mama bear would come lumbering out of her cave and would almost jump in my car and make the trip to Logan to fix everything. During this time I listened to your Parents Question and Answer session from Orientation (over and over) and it soothed my nerves. You said,

“There is dignity in taking risks, and there is dignity in failing. And it’s okay if Johnny comes in and does part of an assignment and then goes, ‘oh, dang, I really should have done more on that’ and learns from it, instead of mom coming in and saving his bacon and making it so that everything is wonderful. We all learn from failure. We all learn from taking risks outside of our comfort zone.  So often, (I wouldn’t say that any of your students are in that place because they’re here today), we shield our students from taking those big steps and those things that our other students without disabilities may just naturally do, because we don’t want them to fail; it’s devastating when they do but what do we learn from that failure. And I think that’s a good balance to look at. Hey, is this something that they can fail safely; and Aggies Elevated is a really good place to learn those things and suffer consequences that happen in a very supported environment.”

I grew to understand that you are not setting him up for failure, but that you are setting the stage for him to fail in a safe environment so he can learn.

I grew to understand that you are not setting him up for failure, but that you are setting the stage for him to fail in a safe environment so he can learn. It has been hard to help him see why he needs to be there and I didn’t want a failure to make him throw his hands in the air and give up. It’s been so exciting for me to watch him learn how to learn.  I heard a lot of ‘I don’t like homework… Homework is hard… I don’t know why we take notes.’ One day, on the phone, he told me that someone had called him about woodworking. I asked, who it was, what they called for, where they were from. He couldn’t answer any of my questions. This. This is why we are learning to take notes. Those moments when he recognizes how it applies to his real-world life and makes the connection. They are sometimes few and far between, but we see the wisdom in steps.

It has occurred to me that this experience has been as much for me as it has been for Bryce. As it is with most parents, we tend to do too much for our children, and for children with disabilities, maybe more so. I’m learning to let go and let be; to step back and let you do your job and also let him figure it out.

This has been the most painful, stressful and tearful, yet joyous, exciting and spiritual experience. And I just wanted to thank you for the ride. Thank you for the weekly progress reports, they soothe my soul. You and your staff are amazing and we appreciate all of your hard work and wonderful specialized set of skills and talents you each have. You make a difference in people’s lives!

*****
Aggies Elevated at Utah State University believes that all individuals, regardless of ability, have the right to meaningful employment, lifelong learning, self-determination and full community inclusion. Utilizing the MyCLIMB (My Career Ladder to Independence, Maturity & Balance) person-centered planning model, Aggies Elevated students, along with invited family members and/or other stakeholders, will chart their own paths toward independence within an individualized framework of supports that identifies challenges, builds on individual strengths and encourages personal responsibility.