Making Connections

Group photo of Aggies Elevated students.
The Aggies Elevated family in the homeroom.

Aggies Elevated students take part in Connections, a class targeted toward freshmen with the intent of helping them form relationships—connections—with other students and the larger campus community.

A large part of the Connections class is the Common Literature Experience, in which all students read the same book over the summer and come to class prepared to discuss it. This year’s literature selection was The Emerald Mile by Kevin Fedarko. The book explored the history of the Grand Canyon and its relationship to those who want to use its water for recreation, farming and other uses.

The following message was written by Mykel Beorchia, an academic advisor in the Quinney College of Natural Resources who teaches a section of Connections. It is shared by permission of Mykel and the Aggies Elevated students named in the story.

“THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU for allowing me to be part of the Aggies Elevated program. I have Jason and Dana in my class. I hope it is ok that I share this with you.

“Today we did a fishbowl activity focused on The Emerald Mile. The class sits in a circle with three people in the middle sitting on chairs facing each other. I give a topic and the three people in the middle discuss the topic. When someone from the outside wants to say something, they raise their hand trade places with the person in the middle. We started the conversation with ‘Who do you most relate to in the book?’ Jason and Dana gave great answers that indicated they really spent time reading and comprehending the book.

“The next question focused on Moitessier (pg 167), who didn’t complete his goal because he realized the point of his endeavor was the journey itself, not the destination. Dana was appropriately open about her experience and explained that people have been telling her for her whole life that she cannot go to college. She said she was determined to go to college and has had to work twice as hard as her peers to be here. She truly believes that learning is a gift. It changed the vibe of the whole room! Other students began opening up about their experiences and their goals in ‘becoming a learner’ as college students. Jason talked about being so excited to be in college and taking advantage of all of his opportunities. Two really great moments I’ll remember for a very long time.

“Thanks again for letting me be part of the Aggies Elevated world.”


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.

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