Diversity Fellowship Capstone Project (ND UCEDD)

By Bailee Laducer, North Dakota Center for Persons with Disabilities, Minot State University

July 24, 2017

My name is Bailee Laducer and I have spent the last six months as the diversity fellow at NDCPD. I am an enrolled member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians (TMBCI) and am from the reservation located in Belcourt, North Dakota. As the diversity fellow, I identified one of the biggest needs we have is encouraging young people from my community to get training to work in disability related fields. The Director of the Native American Cultural Center at Minot State University (MSU) and I came up with the idea of hosting a Spring Bridges event where we invited 9th through 12th graders from the Turtle Mountain Community High School to visit the MSU campus for an entire day with the purpose of learning about disability studies and human service degree programs. We wanted to expose students to a field they probably would not otherwise consider, meet various faculty members, tour the small campus, and introduce them to the supportive environment of the Native American Cultural Center.

A total of 17 students and 2 supervisors attended the Spring Bridges event. When they arrived, I greeted them and they were given a campus tour. Each student received a welcome gift; a NDCPD bag with information and goodies. Then students completed the first part of their KWL charts regarding what they already knew (K) about Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (I/DD) and what they wanted (W) to know. In terms of what they already knew, students indicated there are different types of disabilities, people with disabilities have a hard time learning, they need a lot of support, some people are born with disabilities, and "some disabilities are rare and others are more common". Students wanted to know about I/DD, what families can do to help their family member who has I/DD, how people with I/DD learn new things, whether there is a cure, "how disabilities impact people", different types of "treatments" for different disabilities, and causes of disabilities.

After a full day of presentations, lunch, photos and even an opportunity to use MSU's rock climbing wall, students were asked to complete the last column in their KWL chart (L), which asked what they learned about the topic of I/DD. Students wrote that they learned about different types of disabilities and fields of study related to disabilities. Students also stated "you can make a career out of helping people with disabilities," and "people with disabilities are the same as us. I already knew that but I learned a lot more."

Overall, the day was a huge success! We had a better turn out than expected as far as the number of students who came. After talking with several of the students, they stated they had a positive experience and especially enjoyed rock climbing. I'm a firm believer that our future lies with the younger generations. I'm glad I have these opportunities to practice leadership skills and be a role model to youth in my community. When they have these types of hands-on, visual experiences, they are more likely to be successful in high school and motivated to attend college. The Spring Bridges day gave students the exposure to disability studies degree programs at MSU, which provides more options for their future career choices.