Eye to Eye mentoring program connects students with disabilities

Students with disabilities at Lincoln Middle School don’t always have access to the resources they need to get ahead. That’s where CSU’s Eye to Eye program comes in.

Eye to Eye, a national mentoring organization, allows college students with a learning disability to mentor junior high students who have learning disabilities or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (LD/ADHD) through art.

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“It is like organized chaos,” said Kim The, co-coordinator of the CSU chapter. “[The program chose art] because you can’t go wrong with art. These kids are told so often that they are always wrong and now they can finally be right.”

Students create projects like dioramas of their ideal learning environments and the apps to help with their disability. By taking this approach, students learn more about their disability and what resources are available, The said.

CSU’s Eye to Eye chapter is only in its first year, and hopes to have at least 10 college mentors signed up for the program. Recruiting members who fit the requirements and the time commitment is the biggest challenge.

“The hardest part is definitely recruiting members,” Co-Coordinator Kim Cara said. “It is also finding people who fit the criteria. Some people want to do it, but don’t realize that it is for students with disabilities, or students who have disabilities don’t want to come forward.”

The mentors don’t need to be artists, as long as they just want to have fun and learn about their disability, Cara said.

“There is a need in K-12 education for students who have LD/ADHD to better understand their disabilities,” Kevin Fleming, community organizer for Eye to Eye, wrote in an email to the Collegian. “There is a need for these students to realize their strengths, and for them to see that a future in higher education is not only possible but probable.”

The CSU chapter is concentrating on students from Lincoln Middle School, because of the school’s minimal accessibility to resources for students with disabilities.

Due to Lincoln’s lower income demographics, there is no access to resources like iPads for assistive technology, audio formatted textbooks or text to speech programs for students. Without resources like those, students aren’t getting the help they need, The said.

“That is what we are here for,” The said. “We can help find resources for them, as well as acting like a mentor and helping them get to a place where they feel good about their disability. And that is why we give them resources, because everyone learns differently.”

The idea to bring Eye to Eye to CSU came from the Ability Club, an organization on campus that joins together students with disabilities.

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“The Ability Club recognized the need to do more disability awareness outreach to K-12 education,” Fleming said. “Society stigmatizes all disabled people by problematizing them under the ‘cure’ model of disability. We want people with disabilities, especially kids in K-12 education, to realize that they are not problems, but rather people who have unique sets of valuable experiences and skills.”

Aside from providing resources, the program aims to give both mentors and mentees alike a sense of community and pride. According to The, one of the results of the program is that students both in college and junior high gain a community of support that they may not have had before the program.

“It brings a community and a family here for support,” Cara said. “That feeling makes you really feel like you belong. We want everyone to be proud of their disabilities and identity.”

“It helps boost self-confidence and gives them a community to belong to,” The added. “It’s hard when you feel like you are the only one and this helps show them that there are older students and they can help find their greatest potential.”

According to the two coordinators, the best part about the program for them is seeing the impact on the community, and getting to see more people accept and embrace their disability.

“What is really cool about this program is that no one asks what the student needs to be able to learn,” Cara said. “They are just expected to follow the rules of culture and this is for them and their needs and disability.”

The Eye to Eye program is hosting an informational session Wednesday night at 6 p.m. in the Resources for Disabled Students Office.

Collegian writer Taylor Pettaway can be reached at news@collegian.com.