Summer Study: What Do Phase I Scholars Do?

Photo of Phase I DO-IT Scholars Clarissa, Hannah, and Ellen look at a computer during an EXO Labs workshop
Phase I DO-IT Scholars Clarissa, Hannah, and Ellen look at a computer during an EXO Labs workshop.

DO-IT Phase I Scholars participate in a two-week, live-in Summer Study session on the UW Seattle campus. They learn about college life; explore the Internet; interact with peers, staff, and mentors; and have fun. The DO-IT Scholars program started in 1993 as an experimental project for teens with disabilities nationwide. It is currently open to Washington State teens and is supported by the State of Washington, the Boeing Company, the Microsoft Corporation, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Spaced Out: Visiting The Planetarium

Olivia and Ellen, Phase I Scholars
Photo of people sitting around the edge of the University of Washington planetarium looking up at the night sky on a giant screen
People sit around the edge of the University of Washington planetarium looking up at the night sky on a giant screen.

The Phase I DO-IT Scholars had the opportunity to go the Physics and Astronomy Department at UW to check out the planetarium and to explore the far reaches of the galaxies without using a telescope.

An interesting sight to see before entering the planetarium was the pendulum that moves with the earth's motion. Next was the sphere shaped room with laid-back chairs for us to look up at the sky. This activity opened up a great opportunity to gaze under the "stars" while having the comfort of being indoors.

It was fascinating looking beyond our own galaxies and to get personal with the planets in our solar system. We learned about the stars' constellations and about the stories behind them.








Killing Killer Organisms?

Brenna and Karly, Phase I Scholars
Photo of Phase I DO-IT Scholars Julian and Karly holding different bottles of chemicals and work together in a classroom.
Phase I Scholars Julian and Karly work together on a science project during Summer Study 2013

On the third day of Summer Study, we were introduced to people at Seattle Biomedical Research Institute (SBRI), and what it means to work there. They study all kinds of different diseases.

SBRI finds ways to prevent viruses from speeding up and killing more people around the world. The disease we focused on in the class was tuberculosis (TB). TB travels by air, making it more contagious. It is most common to get in the lungs, but you can still get it anywhere.

After hearing all about their jobs, we were put into groups and given chemicals to see if we could destroy a virus. Each group had one jar of FDA, LB, and MEG. We then mixed the MEG with the LB, shook them for five seconds, and let them sit for three minutes. Then we chose three solutions from a table that had thirty or more different types of solutions from bleach to Bactine. We mixed those solutions with our MEG and LB, let them sit for three minutes, and then put the black light on to see if any of them worked. We all leaned in and squinted our eyes to see changes in the solutions. We were looking for the dimmer coloring. That meant the chemical would have killed the FDA. It was hard to tell what was light and what was dim. We loved all the bright colors the solutions created.

We learned about diseases that we hadn't heard of and how new diseases are evolving past our vaccines. This field of work needs more people to test and develop vaccines to help benefit the whole world.

How DO-IT Impacted Our Lives

Clarissa and Nicole, Phase I Scholars
Photo of DO-IT Scholars, Ambassadors, and staff all sing Sheryl Burgstahler's favorite karaoke song, 'Stop! In the Name of Love' during ice cream and karaoke night
DO-IT Scholars, Ambassadors, and Staff all sing Sheryl Burgstahler's Favorite karaoke song, "Stop! In the Name of Love" during ice cream and karaoke night.

Imagine yourself being locked up in a glass case where no matter how hard you try it is impossible to get out. Before we heard about the DO-IT program, our everyday life felt boring. When we were little, we didn't have many friends because we were too shy to express ourselves and talk to other people. We usually did everything alone without the company of friends. We would keep to ourselves more because we were afraid that others would judge us or talk negatively about us because of our disabilities.

After we participated in the DO-IT Scholars program, we realized that we need to change ourselves and our way of thinking. DO-IT has taught us how to become more independent by living in a dorm, being away from home, and trying our best to take care of ourselves without our parents' help. We learned skills that we think are essential in our lives. Other than independence, one important lesson we learned is to not let your disability, whether it is physical, visual, and/or learning disability, control your life. Do not let other people's negative comments affect how you live your life. Just always remember to be you and do not try to be someone else. Also, never give up your dreams. It is true that there are many obstacles, but never break down and stay strong, because you have to learn from your hardships to be able to move forward and reach your true goal.

DO-IT has helped us realize that if you keep your enthusiasm and hard work, that hard work is going to pay off and eventually you are going to receive a much better reward than what you would expect from the start.

Independence—Living on Your Own

Hannah and Courtney, Phase I Scholars
Photo of Phase I DO-IT Scholar Kayla holds up her arm and speaks up in a classroom, with Phase I Scholar Clarissa sitting next to her
Phase I Scholar Kayla speaks up in a Summer Study 2013 classroom session.

Leaving the nest is something all teens have to go through sooner or later. Whether they go kicking and screaming or faster than the Roadrunner, there are challenges for anyone starting life on their own—especially for kids like us. What do I mean by that? Well, I mean that we are normal people, but we happen to have disabilities. From cerebral palsy to being hard of hearing, each DO-IT Scholar has a little quirk making life a bit more interesting. Our metaphorical flight from the nest may be just a bit more exciting.

Living without parental guidance for the first time brings some invisible responsibilities and actions to light. We are finally able to comprehend how much we rely on our parents' advice, as much as we hate to admit it.

DO-IT Scholars is an experience full of realization. Things as simple as finding a seat in the cafeteria became something we had to do almost completely on our own. For visually impaired people like us, maneuvering in low-lit areas can be pretty stressful. So, it was up to us to learn our way around the cafeteria and orient ourselves to the environment.

Our parents weren't around to advocate for us, so we had to learn to speak up for ourselves and concisely explain our disability. Most people take for granted being able to read the labels over the different food options or the daily menu posted over the counter. However, being legally blind, these signs present significant challenges. The experience hasn't been easy by any stretch of imagination, but it has without a doubt been completely worthwhile.

Independence is a key element to surviving in the adult world. DO-IT allows us to have a taste of it before actually going off to college, giving us a chance to prepare for the world that lies ahead. It was an amazing and nerve-racking experience. In the long run it will assist us on the road towards college.

Make New Friends, But Keep the Old

Kayla and McKenna, Phase I Scholars
Photo of DO-IT Interns Erika and Kaylie are dressed up in party hats and crafts while posing in front of a polka dot background
Interns Erika and Kaylie get silly for craft night during Summer Study 2013.

Ever since birth, we strive to make connections with other people. Throughout our lives, friendships are the anchor we grasp during the hard times. For some, however, making friends and having those life-long connections can be difficult. People with disabilities are just that: People first, who are affected by a disability. Disability does not define us; it's just a part of who we are. Some people, though, seem to disconnect and avoid us because we are "different."

Throughout our years, we have learned how to deal with this rejection. Honestly, it's not rejection though. Some people don't understand that we are all different. Nobody will ever be "normal." Understanding this concept can help us overcome fears to make friends and meet new people.

During this week at DO-IT, we have been thrown together with other people with disabilities from all over the state of Washington. We have met amazing people here and they have become close friends in ten short days. We truly believe these people will stay with us for the rest of our lives and help us through college and vice versa. As C.S. Lewis says, "Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: 'What! You too? I thought I was the only one.'"

Pacific Science Center

Rahil and Julian, Phase I Scholars
Photo of Phase I DO-IT Scholars Ellen and Olivia using some of the science equipment at the Pacific Science Center
Phase I DO-IT Scholars Ellen and Olivia use some of the science equipment at the Pacific Science Center.

The Phase I DO-IT Scholars took a field trip to the Pacific Science Center (PSC). We went to several parts of the building, such as the Boeing IMAX theater, the exhibits, and the laser dome.

Our first stop was the movie theater, where we watched Flight of the Butterflies in 3D. The 3D effect really contributed to the movie experience.

After lunch, we formed several groups to explore the PSC exhibits. The exhibits were interesting and involved all parts of science, from astronomy to zoology. The butterfly house was fun because there were many different kinds of butterflies, and it related to the movie we saw earlier.

Our last activity was the Michael Jackson show in the laser dome. There were lines, shapes, and drawings made out of the light.

An Unexpected Flight: Wheelchair Basketball

Antonio and Ryan, Phase I Scholars
Photo of Phase I DO-IT Scholars Michael and Ryan ride a tandem bicycle on the Burke Gilman trail during Summer Study 2013
Phase I DO-IT Scholars Michael and Ryan ride a tandem bicycle on the Burke Gilman Trail during Summer Study 2013.

When we walked to the Intermural Activities center for the accessible sports exposition, neither of us knew what to expect. We knew we would have the opportunity to play wheelchair basketball, but many questions were lingering in our minds: What are the rules? What is the pace like? Will I be able to wheel myself and concentrate on the game at the same time?

Once we tried it, anxiety went away. "As soon as I [Antonio] strapped into the chair and gave it that first push, my fears were consumed by an excitement and intensity that I had never felt before: I felt like I was flying, like I was free." Ryan also added, "Although I was scared at first, it was a new experience that was very exciting." We recommend wheelchair basketball to everyone, even those without disabilities.



Innovation at Work

Dustine and Michael, Phase I Scholars
Photo of Phase II DO-IT Scholars Alicia and Aaliyah do an activity with cards with Intern Kaylie during the video games workshop during Summer Study 2013
Phase II DO-IT Scholars, Alicia, Aaliyah, do an activity with cards with intern, Kaylie, during the video games workshop during Summer Study 2013.

We had a great time at the Microsoft Campus. We learned about designing innovative products that serve the needs of people with disabilities. Scholars worked in groups to build a potentially useful product: a robotic service dog for people with disabilities. The activity provided a taste of how project development teams work together on a new invention.

A panel of Microsoft employees told stories of their disabilities and how they came to work at Microsoft, along with pieces of advice. Jenny Lay-Flurrie, the chair for the Cross Disability Employee Resource Group (ERG), advised us to consider disclosing our visible disabilities before the job interview, so that the proper accommodations can be made.

After the panel, Brannon Zahand talked about marketing video games. Brannon explained that Microsoft was making changes through feedback from people with disabilities to improve their games. The next speaker was Jessie; she explained what the definition of a game is, how games are classified, and the differences between AAA games, like Dragon Age Origins, and Indie games, like Plants verses Zombies. AAA games usually have large amounts of funding, resources, and marketing put into the creation of the game, while Indie games are usually created with less funding, often by a much smaller company.

Before we went to the Microsoft campus, we did not know about the video game industry and how Microsoft has responded to people with disabilities who use adaptive technology. We learned how to prioritize and work better as a team. We were left with a sense of awe and the belief that we could DO-IT!