UCCS Winter Commencement set for Dec. 18

An estimated 400 August and December UCCS graduates will participate in commencement exercises scheduled for 2 p.m. Dec. 18 at the World Arena.

According to the Office of Admissions and Records, 714 students are eligible to participate in the ceremonies, the first winter commencement ceremonies at the World Arena. For two years, UCCS conducted winter ceremonies at the Pikes Peak Center. To allow students to bring an unlimited number of guests, the World Arena was selected for this year’s ceremony.

Features about two graduating students follow. For more information about commencement ceremonies, contact Tina Collins, Office of the Dean of Students, tcollins@uccs.edu or 255-3258.

Education grad motivated by students with special needs

Kayleigh Sheble knew a long time ago that she wanted to be a teacher.

But it was a then- eighth-grade boy with an incredible personality and rare genetic-based disability who convinced her that special education was her calling.

“I love figuring out how their brains work,” Sheble says of her work with middle and high school students with cognitive and physical disabilities. “Sometimes, the littlest steps are the most rewarding.”

Sheble will graduate Dec. 18 as the first graduate involved in collaboration between the UCCS College of Education and Colorado Springs School District 11’s high school honors Teacher Cadet Program. The five-year-old program allowed Sheble to take courses at UCCS while still attending Doherty High School and to work in district classrooms for her field experiences and student teaching while a UCCS student. A scholarship from District 11 helped pay for most of Sheble’s college expenses and will help pave the way for her to work in the district next fall.

“It’s truly a ‘grow your own’ program.” Laura Marshall, instructor, Special Education and program administrator said. “Students have the opportunity to decide early on if education is the right choice for them and the district has an opportunity to fill high-need positions, particularly in science, math and special education. Everyone benefits.”

For Sheble, who progressed through grades K-12 in District 11 at Jefferson Elementary, Russell Middle School and Doherty High School, the Teacher Cadet program was a natural. She cited Doherty teacher cadet instructor Barbara Rohn as someone who encouraged her to see herself at the front of a classroom.

But it was Connor Lester who convinced Sheble that a special education classroom was where she could do the most good. For three years, she worked with him on life, social and communication skills ranging from grocery shopping to using sign language or picture communication systems. Sheble will graduate magna cum laude – with great honor – from UCCS on Friday with a bachelor’s degree in geography and environmental studies and having completed teacher licensure requirements. Cheering her success will be Connor Lester and his mother, Pam, as well as her parents, siblings, and husband of two years, Paul. From there, Sheble hopes to work as a substitute teacher and to apply for full-time positions with District 11 for the fall.

Former airman discovers innovation niche

Steve Bassett can bench-press 350 pounds, play wheelchair tennis, ski, and hand cycle.
But the broad-shouldered disabled Air Force veteran says those activities are nothing compared to the challenge of returning to college in his mid-30s.

Bassett will graduate Dec. 18 as the first person to earn a Bachelor of Innovation degree, a unique combination of courses in business, engineering, globalization and communication that fit Bassett’s desire to be self-employed and to make a difference, both for himself and for his family but also for others.

Originally a business finance major, Bassett discovered that the BI program – unique in the United States – would allow him to combine his multiple interests and zeal for trying new things. He worked closely with Terry Boult, El Pomar Chair of Innovation and Security, as well as with students who were half his age.  He is graduating as president of the BI program’s first spin-off, Syberenety, which in January will start on a $150,000 Small Business Innovation Research award from NSF to develop and commercialize iPhone and social networking technology to assist those battling drug and alcohol addiction.

Asked about working with young people, Bassett replied:

“My mindset is that I can learn in any setting. It’s important to listen and to develop relationships with those around you. That’s an important part of being in school.”

The former Air Force armament specialist never planned on college. He moved from high school in Southern California to the Air Force. An on-duty car accident left him paralyzed. Following his discharge, he worked in construction and restaurant businesses “where I got my rear end kicked,” Bassett said.

Those business experiences, the birth of his first child, Vaughn, and later twin sons, Shane and Blake, convinced Bassett he needed to return to school, in part to set an example.

“They have an opportunity to not make the same mistakes that I did,” Bassett said of his children. “They’ve seen that it takes sacrifice to reach a goal. They’ve seen me not go to family events or do something fun because of school.”

Bassett will wear a UCCS class ring with “it’s never too late” engraved inside and with magna cum laude – with great honor – accolades. Leading the applause will be his children, wife, Karen, and parents.

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