Quantcast
Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
(Paul Fraughton | The Salt Lake Tribune) Olympus High School junior Megan Jones, right, helps Cassie Kalmar with her language skills. Megan is one of several Olympus High students who volunteer at The Hartvigsen School for students with special needs. Tuesday, March 12, 2013
Olympus High students help special-needs peers at Hartvigsen with assistive technology
EagleEyes » Electrodes track eye movement to control a computer mouse to play games and learn new skills.
First Published Mar 14 2013 02:18 pm • Last Updated Mar 19 2013 11:03 am

Students from two schools are forming a relationship that transcends words.

Through their Community of Caring class, Olympus High students are helping out their special-needs peers at Hartvigsen School to communicate in a way they’ve never been able to.

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

This is done through a technology called EagleEyes, which allows students with severe disabilities to use their eye movement in place of a computer mouse or cursor.

"We’re creating empowerment for students at Olympus as well as students at Hartvigsen," said Chip Hopkins, Olympus High social-studies teacher. "It’s bigger than the Wright Brothers to release people from isolation, and we have embraced real joy."

Hopkins started the Community of Caring class 19 years ago to promote community service. He learned about the EagleEyes project last year and decided he had to include that as an option for his students.

About 20 Olympus High students go to Hartvigsen twice a week. They work with five Hartvigsen students, but there are only two EagleEyes units available at the school, so they have to rotate between doing EagleEyes and literacy mentoring.

Sarah Demers, a junior at Olympus High, works with 17-year-old Krystal Caldwell.

"You realize in high school that a lot of your relationships rely on talking," Demers said. "Krystal, she and I have become really close, and we’ve never had a word of conversation."

The way EagleEyes works is electrodes are placed near the eyes, allowing the system to pick up on the eye movement. Students are able to navigate a computer screen with their eye movements and select an item by staring at a fixed point for a few of seconds.

This allows those with disabilities to train their attention spans, learn basic skills and concepts, watch videos and play games.


story continues below
story continues below

Senior Amy Cummings said she has created true friendship with the Hartvigsen students. She works especially with Whitney Jasper, who’s in her final year at Hartvigsen, where students can stay up to age 22.

"I look forward to fourth period, to coming here and spending time with her twice a week and seeing that smile on her face when we get those electrodes on her," Cummings said. "I honestly feel she has made me a better person."

What started out as classroom curriculum turned into a desire to extend their helping hands as Olympus High kids raised funds to buy EagleEyes units for two Hartvigsen students to use at home.

Jasper was one of the recipients, and Stephanie Hopkins, an Olympus High senior, was one of the people who delivered the gift to her house.

"It was right at Christmas time, so it was like a Christmas gift," Hopkins said. "She was so happy as soon as she knew what the bag looked like, and she got excited. She recognized us."

Hopkins said Jasper and the Hartvigsen students help her more than she helps them.

"It makes my day so much happier just to come and interact with them," Hopkins said. "It gives you that awesome feeling of happiness with your ability to serve people."

If there’s one thing the Olympus High students learned so far, it is that the students they help are just regular teens trapped in bodies that don’t work.

"A lot of people think that special-needs kids don’t have the same attributes that we have in our personalities," Demers said. "But you see Krystal, and she’s got so much sass, and it’s obvious she’s not some lifeless, personality-less person."

Although the process may be gradual, the Olympus High kids know the Hartvigsen students are making progress, and they can see the joy on their faces.

"I’ve seen the kids excel a lot," said junior Porter Treanor. "They all love life, and they’re just happy."

Next Page >


Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment


About Reader Comments


Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Videos
Jobs
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Access your e-Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.