Panel to benefit disabled students

Mariana Silva

Stark campus event to help with transition from high school

Kent Stark Student Accessibility Services office will answer students and parents’ questions about the transition between high school and college for students with disabilities.

“We really look at each student individually and figure out what they need to have equal access to this place and then we just make that happen,” said Kelly Kulick, accessibility counselor at Kent Stark.

The student-parent accessibility forum will happen from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Jan. 21 at the Academic Success Center at the lower level of the Campus Center at Kent Stark. The event is open to all people interested in higher education, regardless of the institution they plan to attend.

Kulick said that to make the transition successful, not only should students attend the meeting, but also their parents, who have been assisting their children in their education.

“The reason these students are even thinking about going to college is because their parents have been their advocates,” Kulick said.

After students enroll in college, Kulick added, part of her job is to teach them to become self-advocates.

Representatives from the Kent campus Student Accessibility Services Office, financial aid, Stark campus counseling and the Stark County Bureau of Vocational Rehabilitation will also be at the forum.

Michelle Etling, 44, diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder, started college at age 40, after 10 years of staying home with her children, she wrote in an e-mail.

Etling, who is currently using the accessibility services at Stark, will be one of the students sharing experiences with the audience at the forum.

“I think I can help students by letting them know that through the office of accessibility services and determination to succeed, their college experience can be the best time,” Etling said.

Etling said she didn’t know the disorder could affect her ability to take tests, especially timed ones. After contacting the accessibility office, she was able to get special accommodations and take tests in a calmer environment.

“Don’t be ashamed or afraid of your disability, whether it is a mental disability like generalized anxiety disorder or a physical disability like paralysis,” Etling said. “We are all here for the same purpose.”

Etling plans to graduate in the spring of 2011 with an associate degree in human services.

Kent Stark, the largest regional campus, has the largest number of students using accessibility services, Kulick said. She estimates that there will be more than 300 students enrolled this spring.

“For people with disabilities, education is the greatest equalizer,” Kulick said. “It is what everything is about.”

Kulick said those attending the forum should contact Cheryl Watkins at [email protected] or call 330-244-3281. For special accommodations, Kulick should be contacted at 330-244-5047.

Contact diversity reporter Mariana Silva at [email protected].