UW program for students with disabilities to be featured at this weekend's president's summit on national service

Press Release
DATE: April 25, 1997

As Gen. Colin Powell convenes the President's Summit for America's Future this weekend in Philadelphia to promote volunteerism and service, representatives of a unique University of Washington program will be on hand to demonstrate how to DO-IT.

The UW's Disabilities Opportunities Internetworking and Technology (DO-IT) program, which enlists volunteer mentors to help students with disabilities pursue careers in science, engineering and math, is one of 14 programs nationwide that will be featured for their creative use of technology in advancing the cause of national service.

"Volunteer mentors are a key component of DO-IT's efforts," said Sheryl Burgstahler, DO-IT director. "We're excited to be a part of the summit and wholeheartedly support the goal of getting businesses and organizations to encourage employees to volunteer and serve the nation's youth."

With Powell leading the way, the April 27-29 summit brings together President and Mrs. Clinton, Vice President Gore, most of the living ex-presidents, Oprah Winfrey and John Travolta, scores of CEOs, clergy and charity leaders. The aim is to mobilizes a vast army of citizen volunteers to reach out to youth with mentoring, tutoring and other services.

As part of the summit, Bell Atlantic/NYNEX is sponsoring an exhibit to showcase 14 successful programs from across the country that use technology to promote volunteerism and service. Winner of the 1995 National Information Infrastructure award for innovative educational use of the Internet, DO-IT promotes the use of computers and adaptive technology by high school students with disabilities to encourage them to pursue careers in science, engineering and math.

Representing DO-IT at the summit will be Julie Smallman, coordinator for DO-IT's COOP program to help college students with disabilities get internships and other cooperative work experience; Darin Stageberg, who manages DO-IT's electronic mentoring program linking college students, faculty and professionals to high school students with disabilities; Zachary, a blind DO-IT participant from State College, Penn., who takes advantage of voice-output technology to use computers and plans to pursue a career in science or engineering; and Sheryl Burgstahler, DO-IT director. At the summit, DO-IT representatives will be demonstrating uses of adaptive technology and the Internet to link young people with mentors and to expand opportunities for individuals with disabilities.

DO-IT participants use computers, adaptive technology and the Internet to join an electronic community and tap the program's mentoring, tutoring and networking services. DO-IT enlists more than 60 volunteers from academia and industry to serve as electronic mentors for high school students enrolled in the program. Many of the mentors have disabilities themselves. "Our volunteer mentors provide the students with role models, advice for getting into college, information about what to expect in the workplace and virtually everything else needed to succeed in academic programs and careers," Burgstahler said. "Mentor are a critical part of DO-IT's efforts and in our participants going on to do great things."

Of the 40 students who have completed the program since it was founded in 1992, all but one are in college or gainfully employed. (The one exception is recuperating from health problems and plans to enroll in college.)

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