Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Local News

April 8, 2012

Morehead State University: Mentoring program to aid disabled

MOREHEAD — The first freshman days at college can be daunting under the best of circumstances.

Students with disabilities face the same challenges — learning to navigate the campus, getting the right books, settling into the social scene — but with additional difficulties of vision impairment or lack of mobility.

Some Morehead State University students with disabilities want to spare younger students some of the anxiety they felt when they came to campus for the first time. They have launched a new organization called Students Empowering Exceptional Individuals, which will pair successful upperclass students who are disabled with middle- and high-school students who share the same disability.

“I want to show other students they can go to college and be successful with a disability,” said Adam Black, who is vice president of the organization. Black, who is visually impaired and has a learning disability, said he had a role model when he was at Russell High School, and that led him to believe other students could benefit from the same kind of guidance.

The organization is sending out notices to school districts in MSU’s eastern Kentucky service area to refer students who may benefit from a mentor, said president Stacy Timberlake, a senior special education major from South Shore.

So far the group has gotten a reply from one and is hoping for more, she said.

High school students who ask for a mentor will outline their interests and disabilities and be matched with a member.

That will happen at events the organization will host this fall on campus.

The idea is to build relationships with the younger students and help guide them through college, said Timberlake, who is almost blind and has a seizure disorder.

Learning the mechanics of college life, like housing, scheduling and campus geography, isn’t genuinely difficult, but it can seem so to a freshman away from home for the first time, she said. As a mentor, she hopes she can help smooth the way and be a reassuring presence.

The university has numerous resources for students, whether disabled or not; organization members can help students find them, she said.

MIKE JAMES can be reached at mjames@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2652.

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