SDI’s Sarah Schwegel and Katie Fields Reach Out to the St. Louis Community

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Image of Katie Fields and Sarah Schwegel standing at a table outside talking to a crowd of people.

September was a busy month of community involvement and college outreach for Starkloff Disability Institute. Important meetings and tabling events filled the calendar.

Sarah Schwegel and Katie Fields, SDI’s Youth Transition and College Outreach coordinators respectively, attended a pair of transition council meetings this month, one for St. Louis County and the other for St. Louis City. Missouri’s Technology First initiative, an effort to improve the lives of people with developmental disabilities through the use of automation, emerged as the key topic.

“We learned about several cost-effective apps and services people with disabilities can use instead of in-home support, so they can enjoy more independence,” Sarah explains.

Katie says these transition council meetings provide a tremendous forum for learning and collaboration. “It’s a great place to share resources and find out about what’s working for other people, so we can better serve our own community,” she says. “It’s a really good networking opportunity. We met several people who we wouldn’t have had the chance to connect with otherwise.”

Five student volunteers from Maryville University met with Katie and Sarah on September 17 during Maryville Reaches Out, the university’s annual day of service. The volunteers helped assemble midterm survival kits for Access U students. These kits included such essentials as coffee, allergen-free snacks, pens, tissues, hand sanitizer and more. All items were packed into insulated lunchboxes with the Access U logo emblazoned on them, offering functionality and style amid the stresses of exams.

“The lunchboxes looked really cute,” Sarah says. “The survival kits were both useful and adorable.”

Katie, along with SDI’s adult career services coordinator Jason Hartsfield, took part in a career expo at SLU on September 25. They were advertising two positions at Starkloff: Office PCA and Intern/Practicum student for DREAM BIG. The expo afforded a terrific opportunity to engage quality applicants while spreading the word about SDI programming.

“It was a good way to connect with all students about what Starkloff offers for candidates, companies and the community,” Katie says. “I also met a few students interested in participating in Access U, which was great.”

Finally, Katie attended the Able-Disable Partnership (ADP) meeting held September 26 at UMSL. ADP is a student-led disability rights group encouraging diversity, inclusion and accessibility at UMSL. Students, faculty, staff and community members gathered to discuss upcoming events at UMSL, goals for the new semester and plans for accessibility improvements on campus.

Mental health support was a major theme. A member of UMSL’s counseling staff spoke to the group about mental health resources available on campus. ADP also plans to host a screening event on October 11 featuring “Intelligent Lives,” a documentary examining how the stigma and isolation associated with mental illness can be overcome.

Katie is thrilled to form a new campus connection with ADP. “At the meeting, I also met students interested in Access U, so it’s been a great week of outreach,” she says. “Able-Disable Partnership is now planning to include Access U resources on their Facebook page.”

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