Notre Dame College’s Academic Support Center a ‘Refuge’

08/23/2010  |  CHRISTIAN TASKE
special needs

“For me, the Academic Support Center is more than a learning center. It’s a place of peace and quiet, a refuge away from the bustling campus.” These words spoken by Chariya-Marie (Char) summarize what Notre Dame College’s Academic Support Center means to its students with learning differences.

Char is one of 85 students enrolled in the center, which opened in 2006. Since then, it has helped students overcome learning disabilities through comprehensive services ranging from individual tutoring to action support groups and career advice. With adaptive equipment and personal attention exceeding those services required by law, the ASC unlocks the potential of its gifted students.

“Unlike other colleges, NDC has a support program that is tailored to my needs,” Char says. ��The staff took into account that my learning style was that of a visual learner and tutored accordingly.”

Unique Services

Even though there are academic support centers at colleges across the country, few, if any, match the services offered at Notre Dame. Twenty instructional advisors mentor students throughout their collegiate careers. In addition, the ASC is affiliated with the Cleveland Clinic, and a doctor and counselor meet with students bi-monthly to set goals to increase executive function.

“The ASC helped me come to terms with my different learning style and realize the only person holding me back was myself,” says Mike, who graduated in May with a bachelors in criminal justice.

A feature unique to Notre Dame’s Academic Support Center is its career service. At the College, students are required to complete an internship. Funded by the Northrupp Trust and the Lennon Foundation, career coaches work with ASC students on interviewing skills, résumé writing and securing references. 

“I also learned note-taking skills and strategies for organizing my schedule,” Char says. “The social skills workshop improved my ability to communicate, to resolve conflict, and to be more reflective in my choice of language.”

An advocate for human rights, Char co-founded Notre Dame’s Neurodiversity Club, which educates the public to respect those with brain differences and builds “neurodiversity pride.” Graduating with a bachelors in communication, Char plans to go to law school and work for the American Civil Liberties Union. She is convinced Notre Dame and the ASC prepared her for this ambitious career.

Fun-Filled, Service-Oriented Learning Environment

But at Notre Dame, students not only receive the best academic and career services – they have a lot of fun, too. With 23 scholarship sports and countless clubs, opportunities to be active are abundant.

ASC student Kevin, for example, is the photographer for the student newspaper and president of the Poetry Club. His poems focusing on loss, people and nature have been published in the College’s literary magazine.

“I write when I am inspired by a person who means a lot to me, or by an emotion which dominates my mind at the time,” he says when asked what inspires him to write such contemplative poetry.

Fellow ASC student Michael is the co-president of NDC’s Choral Club in which he sings baritone. His voice is famous on campus and has been heard as far as China, where Michael went on a spring break trip sponsored by Notre Dame. He describes the trip as “a humbling experience.”

“As a result of my trip to China, I gained much more appreciation for the things I have,” he says. “It showed me that many things I have always taken for granted, such as clean drinking water, pollution laws, and freedom of speech, do not exist for everyone.”

This empathy is constantly instilled in the students through NDC’s many service opportunities. ASC student Emily, who overcame cancer as a child, for example, volunteers for the Cleveland Sight Center. She pursues a degree in special education and hopes to share insights from her personal struggles with students.

“I learned at a very young age that life for some people can be short, that you should always find a way to live life to the fullest, and a way to do something you love because you only have one life.”

Emily loves the performing arts, which received a boost at Notre Dame when professor Jacqi Loewy brought her Broadway experience to the theatre program. This past year, it put on performances of “Proof” and “The Laramie Project” in collaboration with the Choral Club.

Char is one of the members of the Choral Club, where she sung alto for the last three years. She also served on Student Government’s Food Committee, and, as a member of Campus Ministry, built houses for Habitat for Humanity.

But when it is time to focus on her studies, Char knows she needs to step away from the hustle and bustle on campus. There is only one refuge she visits then — the ASC.

Christian Taske writes for Notre Dame College
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