Appalachian State Art Show Celebrates Different Styles of Learning

The smiles were big as a small group of students from Hardin Park Elementary School showed off the artwork they had created with their mentors from Appalachian State University. The show was the culmination of weeks of work as part of Appalachian State’s Eye-to-Eye chapter.

Eye-to-Eye is a national mentoring organization that utilizes an arts-based curriculum to pair students with a learning disability or attention deficient hyperactivity disorders (ADHD) with college students with similar diagnoses as a means of academic and personal empowerment.

This is Appalachian State’s first year with the program which is one of only three in North Carolina. About 15 projects were on display at the show. Recently student mentors and mentees have been building a visual representation of what they considered to be the ideal learning environment. One student expressed his feelings with a classroom representation in the clouds of outer space. He explained that his learning environment would include the Milky Way and many planets. He would be in space surrounded by all the planets and that would help him focus better. 

“I feel like the students are learning to accept themselves and not give up because they are different,” said co-leader Shyann Belanger, a junior in elementary education from Taylorsville, NC. “We are always encouraging them and sharing our own struggles. We want them to learn that you can’t give up just because it’s hard, now and later in life.”

Belanger and her co-leader Lee Wilson, from Clinton, SC are responsible for running the chapter and organizing the Friday afternoon trips to Hardin Park. 

The Eye-to-Eye chapter is just one of the activities that forms part of Appalachian State’s As-U-R initiative. As-U-R is a support program for students with executive function challenges (EFC) which are chronic difficulties in starting projects, planning, organization and decision-making. These types of learning challenges can have long-term implications for academic and personal success.

A collaboration between the departments of psychology and special education, As-U-R is the Appalachian State component of College STAR (Supporting Transition, Access and Retention. “Students come to college who may or may not have been diagnosed with a learning disability in the past,” said Dr. Rose Matuszny, associate professor of special education and project director of As-U-R. “They can run into trouble with structuring study time, following a plan for reaching goals, and organizing a workable college life or other schedule. As-U-R has a variety of options for helping them with those challenges.

“We are also grateful that Shyann and Lee have been able to receive the training from Eye-to-Eye that enables them to effectively mentor younger students and help them see that college can be a part of their future,” she continued.