Community Engagement Tag

The Cavalcade of Authors is dedicated to providing the secondary students of our region access to some of the best Young Adult authors of our modern era. Our special interest is to celebrate Pacific Northwest Authors while introducing students to a variety of genres and subject matter and to furthermore, promote reading and writing within our community. We provide for our participants an authentic writing conference experience where students can learn from the ultimate mentors: the authors of the books they are reading.

Cougs in the Community brings together students, faculty, alumni and others to beautify the WSU Tri-Cities’ campus. Previous projects include painting, flower bed enhancements, and lay sod at the Wine Science Center. When our volunteers commit to giving a few hours out of their day to improve the look and feel of our campus, they are making an impact for all who WSU Tri-Cities serves.

By Maegan Murray

Once a month, a class of 12 education students at Washington State University Tri-Cities welcomes more than 20 clients from The Arc of Tri-Cities where all eat lunch with one another, interact socially, as well as play games and complete crafts.

peer-lunch-club-6The effort is part of the university’s new peer lunch club, which pairs the education students with several individuals with disabilities as a means to develop friendships, as well as to develop one another’s’ social and professional skills.

“My manager told me that WSU Tri-Cities students were wanting to learn more about and get to know the people in our community at The Arc,” Arc VIP Coordinator BreAnna Vaughn said. “For my guys, this is a great way for them to make some friends and get to know people outside of their families and outside from us at The Arc. The benefit for the students at WSU Tri-Cities is that they get to know people in this community and learn how they can help these individuals prosper in their future roles as teachers.”

As an organization, The Arc of Tri-Cities assists persons with developmental disabilities in choosing and realizing where and how they learn, live, work and play. The WSU Tri-Cities peer lunch club provides an added opportunity for Arc clients to bond and socialize with individuals in a college setting while WSU Tri-Cities students have the opportunity to get to know a group of individuals whose learning challenges may be peer-lunch-club-1unfamiliar to them.

“I believe it is a good experience for our students who are in education because nowadays, with current trends in inclusive education, they will have students with disabilities in their classroom,” said Yun-Ju Hsiao, an assistant professor of special education at WSU Tri-Cities and co-organizer of the lunch club. “It provides our students with a good start in learning how to interact with these individuals and what strategies will work best for their learning, in addition to allowing them to make some new friends.”

Value added for all

The Arc participants said they love being able to come WSU Tri-Cities as they are making new friends while participating in hands-on activities. During their last lunch club meeting, the group made paper snowflakes, which they used to decorate The Arc facility for the holiday season.

“It’s been a lot of fun,” Arc client Grady Horvath said. “I’ve made lots of friends so far.”

Arc client Spencer Pidcock said his favorite parts of the experience have been bonding with his new friends over common interests such as movies, of which his favorite are from the Fast and the Furious franchise. He said also enjoys the activities they’ve completed with the WSU Tri-Cities students.

“It’s been really fun,” he said. “Making the snowflakes has probably been one of my favorite activities so far.”

peer-lunch-club-2WSU Tri-Cities students said they have enjoyed the opportunity, not only because they have been able to put some of the skills they’re learning at WSU Tri-Cities to use in working with individuals with developmental disabilities, but also because they are developing close friendships.

“It is like an eye-opener because you see people with disabilities and you generally don’t know how to act with them at first,” WSU Tri-Cities student Maria Admani said. “At first, it is kind of awkward, mainly because you’re putting this pressure on yourself to behave a certain way. But you start talking with them and you realize they are just like you. You have the same likes and dislikes. You don’t have to behave a specific way. They’re people like you and me.”

WSU Tri-Cities student Karli Korten said they’ve developed jokes with some of The Arc clients just as they would their closest friends growing up.

“I remember I brought up the Venus Razors commercials,” she said, referencing a conversation she was having with some of The Arc clients. “I started singing ‘I’m your Venus, I’m your fire,’ and Grady finished it with ‘Your desire.’ It was just so funny. We’re developing these friendships that we never would have had otherwise.”

Korten said as the lunches continue, they sit with the same people each lunch meet-up and that both groups become more and more comfortable with one another each time.

“We ask them questions about our previous activities, or about what is coming up new in their life and you realize they have the same thoughts about life and the same anxieties,” she said.

From social to professional

WSU Tri-Cities student Carrie Stewart said she will definitely use the experience in her future career as a teacher.peer-lunch-club-3

“I think it will help a lot,” she said. “To see individuals with disabilities in this environment, it is almost like a classroom environment. Knowing how to relate to them is a huge thing, as well as developing a personal relationship. This is a great way to allow us to learn how to build bonds, which will help us help them be successful in their own lives.”

Student Kimberlee Moon said they can also use the opportunity to improve the educational experience for all students.

“You get to know them just as you would any other kid in the classroom,” she said. “You can incorporate their interests just as you would any student. You may have to use different strategies, but those strategies you use for students with disabilities will also work for every student in the classroom.”

RICHLAND, Wash. – Washington State University Tri-Cities recently received a $25 million seven-year GEAR UP grant to prepare students in low-income schools to enter and succeed in post-secondary education.

The Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs project will hire close to 100 new employees to work with students in middle schools.

This is the seventh U.S. Department of Education GEAR UP grant received by WSU Tri-Cities since 2002. Earlier awards have helped the university serve more than 25,000 students in middle and high schools.

Low-income, rural partnerships

The grant goals are to improve academic performance, completion of rigorous courses, knowledge of financial aid and post-secondary education, on-time graduation and post-secondary enrollment.

The grant “will raise student awareness and readiness for post-secondary education and career opportunities,” said Chuck Hallsted, GEAR UP director. “It will really make a difference in our communities, especially for first generation and underrepresented populations.”

The program serves 4,500 students in 10 partner districts: Walla Walla, College Place, Dayton, Prescott, Touchet, Kennewick, Othello, Warden, Moses Lake and Soap Lake.

New staff will provide individual guidance

WSU Tri-Cities GEAR UP staff will assist students beginning in the sixth and seventh grades in the districts’ 14 middle schools. Staff will follow the students through high school and into their first year of post-secondary education, which includes four-year colleges, community colleges and vocational technology schools.

Staff will serve students via in-class tutoring, mentoring, college trips, career exploration, after school programs, summer programs, technology, skill development for success and professional development for teachers.

Staff will work collaboratively with school district partners to ensure an effective team approach, Hallsted said.

The Community and Campus engagement fair is a multi-department collaboration to promote campus wide engagement. The fair connects non-profits to valuable resources such as faculty partnerships, student organizations, and volunteers. Students receive the benefit of working with Academic Affairs to get connected with Non-Profits in attendance that could be a resource for experience within a student’s academic discipline or learn more about career paths associated with our degree programs. Student clubs and organizations are also present at the fair sharing information about their groups and how to get involved.

Students will be traveling to another community here in Washington and emersing themselves in a social issue then working to address it through a community volunteer project.

Students will be traveling to another community here in Washington and emersing themselves in a social issue then working to address it through a community volunteer project.

Students will be traveling to another community here in Washington and emersing themselves in a social issue then working to address it through a community volunteer project.

Students will be traveling to another community here in Washington and emersing themselves in a social issue then working to address it through a community volunteer project.