Josh Spece attends computer camp

Brenda Fuller

The following article appeared in the August 17, 1996 issue of the Independence News.

INDEPENDENCE - Josh Spece was one of 20 high school students, to participate in a two-week DO-IT program at the University of Washington.

DO-IT Scholar Josh Spence portrait photo

Organizers say the week will be filled with typical summer camp activities such as treasure hunts, ball games and late-night pillow fights.

What is not so typical is that Josh and the rest of the campers have disabilities. DO-IT stands for Disabilities, Opportunities, Internetworking and Technology; the purpose of the program is to demonstrate that when it comes to going to college, disabled students can DO-IT.

"This program shows students what they can do in college and beyond," said Sheryl Burgstahler, director of DO-IT, which won the 1995 National Information Infrastructure award for innovative use of the Internet.

"It puts these students in touch with other students and mentors who can help and encourage them to achieve their goals. By living in a dorm and participating in activities, students learn what college life is like and how science and other academic activities can be adapted to provide access for them."

Spece, a junior at Independence High School, has Spinal Muscular Atrophy. He said he first heard about the program from the school's physical therapist Cindy Brown.

In April, he received word that he was selected to participate in the program from a field of 127 applicants.

"The neatest thing so far has been talking to other people - other kids in the program or professors at the college - over the Internet," Spece said.

The computer and Internet access was provided for Spece in June at no cost as part of the program. After chatting with his classmates for two-months Josh and his mom, Sue, traveled to Washington State Aug. 6.

At this summer session, Spece will learn about adaptive technology to help him use his computer. He will explore the information superhighway with workshops to cover everything from the origin of the Internet and using electronic mail to doing research on the World Wide Web and making the most of computer graphics.

He will also take field trips to a Seattle Mariners game, the Pacific Science Center and several UW science and engineering labs.

All DO-IT scholars will be matched with university students and professionals, many with disabilities, who will serve as mentors throughout the year.

When he returns home, Josh's work will continue with an independent study project of his own choosing. He will also continue to interact with students and professors over the Internet throughout the year. The program will conclude with a follow-up camp next summer.

"The DO-IT summer session was one of my first experiences with a number of people with different disabilities, and I made a lot of friends," said Todd Stabelfeldt, a second-year scholar who is a quadriplegic. Stabelfeldt, 17, grew up in the small community of Belfair, Wash., but last year moved into his own apartment in Renton, Wash., so he could pursue an associates degree in computer programming.

"Last year, I got into the DO-IT program and it really confirmed my desire to continue my education and pursue a career working with computers.

"All the scholars in the DO-IT program really have good heads on their shoulders and are striving to do something with their lives. The DO-IT program really helps us to achieve our goals."

DO-IT is funded by the National Science Foundation and administered by the College of Engineering and the Office of Computing and Communication at UW.