As in any new situation, there are always jitters. Getting a job, taking a new class. Going to the University of Washington for two weeks to live on campus and participate in the DO-IT program was no exception. Being a Phase I Scholar, I was concerned about getting lost and all the other fears that accompany a high school student who is about to be on her own for the first time, disabled or not disabled. After all, this was the "real" world! I was unsure of how all this was going to work, and there was nothing to allay my fears until I actually got there.
However, I was not nervous about meeting the other students involved. In a sense we had already met over the Internet. The "Information Superhighway," as it has been called, eliminates a lot of prejudice by introducing you to a person's thoughts, ideas, feelings, and beliefs, before you are face-to-face. The Internet gives people a chance to meet you before they meet any disability you may have. This gives people a chance to be taken more seriously. I had already had lengthy conversations with some of the other Scholars through e-mail.
Don't get me wrong. When we first met, we did not all join hands and sing a rousing rendition of "We Are The World." There were conflicts, but overall, there was a willingness to overcome barriers to understand and work with each other.
If I needed proof that people cared, I got it on my last night at camp. I was sick, and needed to leave a day early. As I was preparing to leave, half of the DO-IT population came to say good- bye. As soon as I was able to get on-line, I checked my inbox and found I had at least thirty messages wishing me a speedy recovery. That's all the evidence I require to prove my theory--technology brings people together. --Carolyn
How is it really like in college? This is a question that I often wonder since I made it to high school and college was most likely my next destination. I had no idea what I was going to experience in my two weeks at University of Washington. I had never really been away from home before, and I thought it would be interesting to see how college life would be like. Little did I know that my two week stay at the U-Dub with the program was something that I would consider as the highlight of my summer.
I was aware of the fact that I would spend these two weeks in the program with people I have something in common with, but I was a bit anxious to meet the other kids in the program due to their degree of disability. I was concerned about communication between some of the kids and myself. In no time, communication was established through the Internet and I thought that it was a very interesting process. My first impression of the Internet, however, was impersonal, formal, and intimidating, but my opinion about it quickly changed once I started talking to other students involved in the program. The range of topics that we talked about were unlimited and involved personal, social, and academic combinations of discussions and sometimes even arguments.
The Internet gives everyone a chance to express their ideas without being ridiculed right away and, in our case, an opportunity to an open line support group, due to the fact that on hawking we are a community of sorts. Although what we all have in common is one kind of disability or another, there were still barriers that had to be overcome in the first encounters. I thought the Internet made it easier to overcome those barriers and conflicts before actually meeting everyone. Technology gives people a chance to be themselves, settle differences without truly harming anyone, and most of all bring people together to work toward our advancement, both as a group and as individually capable people who can accomplish much. --Maria
To the National Science Foundation;
Here are my feelings about the DO-IT Program and how I believe Mike has benefited already. It may seem odd but I have learned so many things from Mike, the DO-IT Scholars, and DO-IT staff.
Mike is seventeen and is dyslexic in reading, writing and spelling. He is also Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disordered and on medication. He is very bright and has worked so hard to succeed in the hostile world of the public school system. He has to fight the system to be allowed into the advanced classes he deserves because his ability to write is so poor.
When we saw the flyer for DO-IT, it seemed too good to be true and too competitive for him to have a chance. On the other hand it was too perfect for Mike not to be chosen. Being accepted as a DO-IT Scholar (even the title is uplifting recognition of their ability) has boosted Mike's self confidence and belief in himself and his abilities.
He told me two things, over the phone while in Seattle, that seem significant to me. He said "we are all the same here." I believe that this was the first time that he could be absolutely who he is with no hiding, faking, being embarrassed or having to make excuses for his learning style. I love him and accept him and his different way of looking at the world even when I don't understand, but family doesn't count to kids who have always had that. He had a hard time breaking away and coming home with us. The other thing he said was that they (DO-IT Scholars) had lived their whole lives with inferior and inadequate equipment and if they can get the right technology there is nothing that can stop them in what they want to do with their lives. That statement was proven day after day while Mike was in Seattle in the activities and information that he was able to take part in. He did not only observe, he was hands on involved, he was asked his opinion and then it was respected by the staff. That allowed Mike to come to believe in himself.
I am still overwhelmed when I think about his experience and the chance he has now that he did not before DO-IT. This experience has changed the course of his life. Honestly, he came home different. He gets up in the morning and takes his medication and puts a couple of pills in his pocket when he goes out for awhile and takes them when he needs them. He says his medication is just like the others' wheelchairs in that it's what he needs to help make him successful. He has been somewhat resistant to medication. He is also going in to school the first day to talk to the math department head about changing the math class he has been put into because it follows the existing list. He says it's too easy and he wants a more difficult class where he can learn something new. He is not asking for me to help. He has the courage to go and work on this on his own. Him being his own advocate has been coming, but this jump in ability is a direct result of the DO-IT experience.
On the way home Mike said to us that he had made more friends in the past two weeks than he had in his whole life and that's right. It has always made my heart ache at the lack of friends. It is hard to be different. He has never had a birthday party because he has never had enough friends at one time. This year his birthday fell on a day while he was in Seattle, the DO-IT staff bought a birthday cake and that was the first time he celebrated with so many friends.
Mike has already passed on some of what he got to another ADD child, by taking a boy to register for high school and showing him around so he will know where things are the first day of class.
I truly believe that this program came to Mike exactly when he needed to continue his search for knowledge and he needed to know that others believed that he could make it in a "normal" world. The mentors, volunteers and staff are wonderful. I hope this program will be available to Mike and more students as I believe that this experience is truly one that will change a child's life.
Pat Hampton, Mike's mother