September 21, 2014  

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Southern Miss Group Ready to STEP UP with Special Activities

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A new student organization at The University of Southern Mississippi is ready to STEP UP in 2014.

This month, the STEP UP (Starting Today Empowering Peers through Uniting and Participating) Council became an official University student organization. Council members, composed of youth and young adults with and without disabilities, serve as leaders within their schools, colleges/universities and communities. Council members are not only university students, but community leaders with and without disabilities.

STEP UP officer and Southern Miss student Tanika Robinson values the experience afforded by her service on the Council and the impact of her involvement in this organization as she moves toward graduation. 

“If you are running backwards from who you are, you will never run forward to who you will be,” said Robinson. “Be yourself in everything you do, because every aspect of yourself is worthy of notice.”

Founded in 2008, the Council was originally connected to a project focusing on postsecondary education for students with disabilities. As the project ended, Dr. Jerry R. Alliston, staff liaison, advocated for the Council to become part of the overall Institute for Disability Studies (IDS) Council and represent youth and young adults. 

In 2011, STEP UP became a subcommittee of the overall Institute for Disability Studies (IDS) Advisory Council known as the Community Partnership Advisory Council (CPAC).

STEP UP members will have the opportunity to focus on issues facing all young people including leadership, self-advocacy, transition, health care, education, and employment. The STEP UP Council will focus on preventing bullying of children, youth and young adults with disabilities and inclusive recreational events.

Bully education will be provided through disability education skits based on real life experiences. These skits will be performed in the community at no charge to any groups but are targeted for students in school systems or university students. Members will share their personal stories on growth and dreams.

Recreation will be two-fold, with emphases on members and service to the greater community.  A STEP UP Night recreational event will be held once a month to provide members with an opportunity to have fun and interact in the community. 

Past STEP UP Nights included laser tag, USM Basketball games, painting and a day trip to the New Orleans Zoo and Aquarium. Council members will assist in hosting an array of inclusive recreational events such as a Wheelchair Basketball Clinic and Game, inclusive Valentine’s Day Dance, and Summer Olympics Day Event, as well as educational events including Fun Day at USM and National Disability Mentoring Day.

For more information or to learn more about joining the STEP UP Council, contact Dr. Jerry R. Alliston at 1.601.266.5979 or jerry.alliston@usm.edu.  New members are always welcome!  You can also visit www.usm.edu/disability-studies/stepup.