Disability Mentoring Day to let high school students feel college experience

Kyle Almond

For a college degree to be worth something, it can’t be easy to get. It must be earned. Some students have more difficulties than others. In last week’s issue, “The Review” ran an article by guest columnist Shawn Bryant illuminating the plight of college students with disabilities. But Bryant isn’t just writing articles. He has arranged for Washburn University to take part in the eighth annual Disability Mentoring Day, with the theme “The Life of a College Student.”

This event, which takes place the third Wednesday of every October, will allow local high school students with disabilities to shadow college students for a few hours and sit in on one of their classes. This lets the mentees, as they are called, to get a feel for college life and also have any questions concerning college answered by a current college student. They might even make a new friend.

The beauty of the Disability Mentoring Day lies in how much it benefits everybody involved. Students that volunteer to be mentors will get a chance to share from their own college experiences, to give a college tour, to attend a recognition ceremony for the mentees and to meet someone who might have a different view of the world than they do. All mentors will have to attend a disability etiquette training class, but even that will ultimately benefit the mentors. The class will take place Oct. 14.

This year the event falls on Oct. 17, with activities beginning at noon and running until 5 p.m. Starting at noon, the students will take their mentees on a tour of the campus and to their afternoon classes, working around the mentor’s schedule. Students without Wednesday afternoon classes can still be mentors. They will simply take their mentees to visit with a professor in the mentor’s field of study. After the tours and classes, the students will congregate at 3:30 for a session wrap-up and recognition ceremony. University President Jerry Farley will be in attendance and all of the mentees will receive certificates of completion.

Ultimately, it’s not about certificates received or dignitaries attending, or even sitting in on classes. It’s about recognizing that we are similar in more ways than we are different, making new friends and acknowledging that everybody has the right to pursue whatever level of education they desire. As Bryant will tell you, “I think the message of Disability Mentoring Day is much larger than what’s happening Oct. 17. More importantly, it’s educating all parties involved by teaching awareness, understanding and compassion.”

Any students interested in mentoring may contact Bryant at [email protected]