Katrina Tagget embodied the mission, passion, and work of the Resource Center for Persons with Disabilities during her two years at Michigan State. Her death in September 2008 was felt deeply by everyone who knew her, but her legacy for service and mentoring others with disabilities remains a permanent fixture at RCPD.
With the help of her family and members of the RCPD staff, a scholarship was developed in Katrina’s honor to commemorate her “contributions and encourage others with disabilities to excel both academically and through service to others.” At last year’s Annual Awards & Appreciation Reception, two RCPD students, Mira Preston and Sara Sherman, received the Katrina Tagget Fellowship and were charged with continuing this legacy of service by following their own passions.
The Taggets with (l-r) Sara, Mira, and RCPD specialist Darryl Steele
Mira, a senior studying elementary education at MSU, applied to become a Tagget Fellow with a proposal to create reading workshops that would connect students with learning disabilities to innovative reading strategies, helping to improve their reading skills and comfort.
Preston says, “I know as a college student that the reading load required is very demanding and overwhelming at times. This program was specifically addressed to help students who have learning and reading disabilities, like myself, who want to become more efficient readers.”
Last semester she worked closely with RCPD specialists Darryl Steele and Virginia Rutan to conduct a survey that identified certain areas of reading comprehension and skills that RCPD students wanted to focus on the most.
She is continuing her plans this semester by working with Explorations in Ability Coordinator Regina Carey to make stronger networks with different academic programs around campus. She is excited to bring a student perspective to the project and looks forward to creating “more academic support for all RCPD students by improving connections between RCPD and other academic programs.”
Mira feels that “one of the most rewarding things about being a Tagget fellow is getting to work with students in the S.T.A.T.E program and be a mentor to two specific students.” She adds, “I love being able to help students reach their academic goals and learn strategies and skills that will help them be successful in college.”
Sara Sherman also took the opportunity of receiving the Tagget Fellowship to do something aligned with her own interests. She wondered how she could pair her passion for exercise with strategies for reducing stress and anxiety to help students at RCPD. The answer? Sara created a club, the “Adapted Physical Activity Continuum”, for students at RCPD with any type of disability to cope with stress in healthy ways.
As a Kinesiology major, Sherman has always had “a huge passion for exercise and how exercise can be medicine for stress relief and help social interactions.” Sports have always been a huge part of her life and she believes that “even if an individual isn’t an extremely athletic one, there are ways that athletics and movement can be integrated into daily routines without knowing it.”
The Adapted Physical Activity Continuum has offered RCPD students a wide range of events this school year including a Guided Imagery class that helps with anxiety, attending the U of M vs. MSU women’s basketball game, and hosting an adapted self-defense class for students with any kind of disability. All of the activities combined exercise and a social interaction component, allowing the students to have a lot of fun along the way too.
Sara Sherman (far right) and students in the Physical Activity Club attend the women's MSU vs. U of M basketball game!
Plans for the rest of the semester are abundant, as Sherman hopes to offer a walk-through of campus that ends with yoga or a relaxation piece in one of the gardens, attend the men’s baseball game vs. U of M as a group, and host an event integrated with the wheelchair basketball class.
Sherman says, “The Tagget Fellowship has been a huge part of this year because I am seeing how to apply what I have been learning across my four years in a creative fashion and to share my passions with others in unique ways.”
RCPD Specialist Darryl Steele, who has worked with Mira and Sara, is very happy with the work they have accomplished: “The recipients of the 2012-2013 Katrina Tagget Fellowship, Mira Preston and Sara Sherman, were the right choice. They were selected, in part, because of their creative ideas and previous accomplishments. They have joined RCPD as Tagget Fellows and brought along enthusiasm and great fortitude. I look forward to seeing how their ideas develop into awesome learning experiences this semester.”