DSPS inspires despite hiccup

Los Medanos College hosted a series of speaker-led events on both the Pittsburg and Brentwood campuses on the topic of disability awareness. Though no one came to the events on the Pittsburg campus, this didn’t stop the guests from coming to CC-336 to speak for their cause.

LMC counselor Nina Ghiselli put on the event with Morgan Lynn, and the speakers were compensated with money from the school’s new equity funding. She said she felt it was promoted well enough — posters about the event were put up around campus, emails were sent to faculty and it was mentioned in the Experience.

“In the future, I would love to collaborate with other departments,” said Ghiselli.

LMC alumna Michelle Hernandez, PhD, was the first of three speakers visiting this past Tuesday. She received her doctorate in Clinical Psychology from Alliant University in 2011 and has spoken at other LMC events, such as last summer’s Elevating Diversity conference. Her primary point was about how important it is for schools to accommodate students who have different styles of learning.

She spoke earlier in the day at LMC’s Brentwood campus, where there was more of an audience. Because there wasn’t anyone to speak to at the Pittsburg campus, she instead sat in the room and chatted with Ghiselli.

She noted she was running for the Western title of Ms. Wheelchair USA and would be on the radio program “Too Gone Blonde” hosted by Suzy Vincent and Paul Slade this Sunday at 2 p.m.

On Wednesday afternoon, Cal State University Bakersfield Disability Advisor and Outreach Specialist Jason Watkins was invited to speak via Skype, but once again, no one showed up. The event continued despite the lack of attendance.

A colleague of Watkins, Jasmine Padilla also attended the event. Her job is to “provide information to all new, incoming students.” She also works with students with disabilities and came to answer questions regarding CSUB’s Anchor program, which provides services to those with disabilities.

Watkins acknowledged that there is stigma surrounding learning-disabled students.

“There are students who don’t want to identify that way. Other students have this notion of what it means to be disabled and [they] get caught up in what disability looks like and what does disability act like,” said Watkins. Though it’s a long process to try and normalize it, he said that at least “we’ve got students talking about things they don’t normally talk about.”

Watkins wants to change the idea people with disabilities aren’t as smart because students have grown up thinking people are going to put them aside because they might not be excelling at the same rate as other students.

“We’re not here to put a label on you,” Watkins said. “We’re just here to help you get the most out of your education.”

Like Hernandez, Watkins emphasized the importance of accommodation between students and instructors. He told a short anecdote about a student he once had who was suffering with “debilitating anxiety.” He hid it until the end of the semester and Watkins said if he had known, he would have reached out to him. Students should let their instructors know about any concerns they might have and teachers have to be willing to “work to foster that connection.”

Later that day, speaker Diego Kusnir hosted a workshop for using poetry to understand blindness and disability for success. Kusnir, who is legally blind, attended Berkeley High School, went on to UC Berkeley for his undergrad, and received his masters in psychology at Alliant University. During the workshop, Kusnir showed three videos that related to his struggles and feelings about his own disability.


“The intention was to see people emotionally identify with me — to decrease the stigma towards blind people,” said Kusnir. “Making the blind seem less different and showing there are people who are going through the same everyday issues.”