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ASTEP helps Minot State student achieve goals

Hannah Baleme/MDN Minot State University student and ASTEP participant, Avery Iverson, stands in front of the Nursing Department in Memorial Hall at Minot State University.

Like most first-year college students, Avery Iverson is exploring her career options.

Iverson, 19, from Sidney, Montana, moved to Minot last year to attend Minot State University as a participant of the “Advancing Students Toward Education and Employment” (ASTEP) program through the North Dakota Center for Persons with Disabilities.

Iverson takes part in ASTEP to help her gain life skills and investigate different career paths.

“I do not know what I want to do after college. I’m going to explore these different jobs and see what I like,” Iverson said.

ASTEP is a college program for students with intellectual and developmental (I/DD) disabilities. Since 2010, ASTEP has been supporting young adults with I/DD in attending college. Annually, about 20 students from all over North Dakota, as well as from neighboring states, participate in it.

In a supportive environment, ASTEP students attend classes with students who do not have disabilities, gain employment and learn independent living and social skills. The program strives to make college a reality for students with I/DD and create quality futures for them to be able to live and work in their communities.

Through ASTEP, Iverson is employed with the Minot State University Nursing Department, where she performs office work.

“My adviser, Megan, got me into working there,” Iverson said. “I clean tables, wash doorknobs and water plants. I like it a lot, but sometimes it’s difficult to water the plants correctly.”

ASTEP is helping Iverson find what she likes and what could be a good fit for her in the future.

“It really is just a transition program for students after high school. We want to give these students, like Avery, the full college experience,” said employment coordinator for the ASTEP program, Malinda Kragh.

During the program, students start by performing on-campus work, then move to off-campus jobs.

“Next week Avery is going to be starting with the women’s hockey team, doing some hydration stuff. In the spring we are looking to move her to some off-campus employment as well,” said Kragh.

In addition to helping Iverson explore career paths, the ASTEP program provides her with fun social affairs, such as bingo nights, sporting events, and study nights with other students.

“My favorite thing I’ve gotten to do this semester is play bingo with my friends. I love bingo,” Iverson said.

Iverson already has made many friends at MSU and goes to spin class a couple times a week.

“I’ve also been getting to go to sporting events like volleyball, basketball and hockey. Sometimes my mentor and I get a coffee or play pool together,” she said.

Iverson is enrolled in courses such as independent living, in which she learns how to cook and use transportation services to get around town.

She agrees that it’s possible for a student with a disability to attend college.

“If you want to go to college, you can,” Iverson said.

Iverson said she has been enjoying her time learning and meeting new friends at MSU.

“I really like it so far. I’m glad I came here,” she said.

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