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Blugold mentors children with disabilities through local organization, P.R.I.D.E.

| Lucy Grogan-Ripp

Ask any individual what the word ‘pride’ means to them, and chances are you’ll receive a vast variety of answers. Some might answer fulfillment, vanity, self-worth, or even a pack of lions. Ask UW-Eau Claire senior Jordyn Pederson, however, and she’ll give you quite a different answer.

Jordyn, a kinesiology major and business minor, is completing fifteen hours of service-learning with P.R.I.D.E. for children. P.R.I.D.E., which officially stands for Physical activity and Recreation for Individuals with Disabilities in the Eau Claire area, is a program that aids and encourages those with disabilities.

P.R.I.D.E. serves people of all ages, and Jordyn has been fortunate enough to work with individuals young [AND] old. Last semester, Jordyn was able to complete the first fifteen hours of her service-learning with P.R.I.D.E. for adults, where she focused on engaging adults with disabilities in various physical activities. This semester, however, Jordyn is focusing her final fifteen hours on P.R.I.D.E. for children.

On P.R.I.D.E. for children, Jordyn stated, “The P.R.I.D.E. program serves children with physical, cognitive, and sensory disabilities by providing [them] with individualized instruction that helps in the development of specific movement skills that they may not attain outside of the program, or are having difficulty attaining in the school and home setting.”

Looking for opportunities to get involved in her major and simultaneously fulfill her service-learning, Jordyn got connected with P.R.I.D.E. through Dr. Johnson, a professor in the Kinesiology department. After receiving an email from Dr. Johnson looking to set up interviews for prospective volunteers, Jordyn knew it was the perfect project for her.

“It was actually really interesting,” Jordyn explained, “I took a class with Dr. Johnson that focused on motor development abnormalities in children, and P.R.I.D.E. for children focuses on exactly that.”

Every Thursday evening, Jordyn spends an hour at McPhee Physical Education Center on campus, where she works with the children involved in the program. “Dr. Johnson has a variety of stations set up for the kids, like wheelchair bowling. He has really cool setups for all types of disabilities, making it so every child is accommodated,” Jordyn said.

Each week, Jordyn and a fellow volunteer work directly with one child, engaging them in physical activity and encouraging them to try new things. “We want to make sure [the child] is active for the full hour, because a lot of kids with disabilities don’t always receive that sort of interaction or the assurance that they get their recommended physical activity in,” Jordyn commented.

For Jordyn, her service project with P.R.I.D.E. hits home in a really important way: she has a brother with disabilities, providing her with a background on the topic and an ability to apply a personal and hands-on perspective to her project.

Although growing up with her brother equipped her with a strong foundation on the topic, she never focused on the physical activity aspect until she began her project. Jordyn stated, “I do have a brother that is disabled and non-verbal, but growing up I only went through activities of daily living with him, and never touched on workout stuff.”

Jordyn also commented on the new perspective that her project has brought her and what its like to work with people of all ages who have disabilities, “I think a lot of the times people with disabilities are prefaced as not being equal to people without disabilities and they can’t do the same things. P.R.I.D.E. has really shown me that you can push these individuals and they are normal human beings. Making sure they get the same sort of activities and opportunities as people without disabilities has been really important to me.”

Another revelation Jordyn’s service project has afforded her is a new-found passion for a career working with the disabled. “Because of my project, I’m really considering working with people with disabilities. It was always really intimidating to me because it’s a big responsibility, but I think there’s a big need for it,” Jordyn reflected.

Looking back, before beginning her project with P.R.I.D.E., Jordyn may have held a different idea of what pride means to her. But now, it’s crystal clear: pride isn’t just a synonym for dignity or honor, it’s a commitment to helping those who need it most and giving a voice to those who are so often left behind.