UM Students Help Special Olympics Athletes

Program offers service-learning opportunities in community

UM students Devante Yates (left),of West Point; Lauren Nichols, of Roswell, Georgia; and Ali Siddiqui, of Ocean Springs, helped more than 300 Special Olympics athletes check in at the organization’s fall bowling event. UM photo by Sarah Sapp
Students from the University of Mississippi Department of Health, Exercise Science and Recreation Management helped 310 athletes from area schools, North Mississippi Regional Center and the Scott Child Development Center compete in Special Olympics bowling at Premier Lanes for the organization’s regional fall event.

“If I didn’t have them, I couldn’t do the Special Olympics,” said Felisa Bonner, Area 4 Director for Special Olympics Mississippi. “They helped with check-in, running the lanes, putting the names in the system and helping the athletes bowl. They do a great deal of work.”

Bonner credits Michael Dupper, assistant professor of HESRM, for helping coordinate this event, along with graduate student Brittany Trahan and undergraduate Devante Yates.

“Working with the folks from NMRC, the local school district and the Scott Center helps our students learn how to work with differently-abled populations and people with developmental disabilities,” Dupper said. “It prepares them for the real world, because that is who they’re going to meet: people with varying conditions, not just intellectual disabilities, but people who have mobility impairments and the elderly.”

More than half the recreation therapy staff at NMRC graduated from the Ole Miss department, Dupper said.

“A lot of our students want to get into physical therapy and occupational therapy, so obviously it’s directly related to working with people who are going through rehabilitation.” he said.

Yates, an exercise science and nursing major from West Point, was involved in planning and executing the Special Olympics event through his undergraduate independent study with Dupper. He regularly works with participants from NMRC to get contact hours in recreation management, helping patients with mobility function through activities like aquatics and horseback riding.

“This is my first time being over the Special Olympics, and I just feel a lot of love from the participants,” Yates said. “The clients that come here – I can see how much fun they’re having, and it just brings a lot of joy and cheer to my heart.”

Planning the Special Olympics is an opportunity for students in the department to recruit helpers from all over campus, said Trahan, a doctoral student in exercise science from Rayne, Louisiana.

“I’ve learned how Ole Miss helps in the community, and participating helps me better get acquainted with the community of Oxford,” she said.

Ole Miss students help with a variety of Special Olympic events throughout the year, including bowling, skating, basketball, and track and field.

The university’s exercise science program prepares students for a broad range of health- and fitness-related professions through a curriculum that focuses on the applied sciences of exercise physiology, biomechanics, motor control and the psychology of exercise behavior. Students are presented with the most contemporary issues and trends in the application of exercise for weight management, cardiopulmonary health, maintenance of functional movement throughout the lifespan and the application of exercise science to athletic performance.

Students who graduate with a degree in exercise science often continue to study in areas such as medicine, physical therapy, occupational therapy, nursing, psychology, athletic training, nutrition and education. Students also can find employment as group exercise instructors, cardiopulmonary rehabilitation specialists, employee fitness coordinators, personal trainers and strength and conditioning coaches.

Graduate study in exercise science provides a focused scientific examination into a specific topic in exercise science. The mentor-driven approach provides students with opportunities for in-depth study of an application of exercise to an area of health and human performance.

For more information about volunteering with the Special Olympics, contact Trahan at batrahan@go.olemiss.edu. For more information about the UM exercise science program, email dbramlet@olemiss.edu.


By Sarah Sapp

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