Story by Rachel Sipes
Earlier this year, Colorado State University’s Department of Occupational Therapy welcomed new employees Shea McCowen and Emaleigh Renier to the Center for Community Partnerships. In their new roles, McCowen and Renier are helping people with disabilities more fully participate in everyday life, embodying CCP’s mission of supporting the inherent dignity, potential, and full participation of all people.
Valuing roles in life’s transitions
McCowen joined the CCP in February 2020 after graduating from CSU’s occupational therapy program in summer 2019. When sharing about her new position and the CCP, McCowen noted, “As a new graduate, just about everything has been a learning curve! The world of supported employment was and is still very new to me. Also, working with teenagers/young adults in The High-School Readiness Individualized Vocational Exploration program was a whole new exercise in relationship building. You truly don’t build rapport the same way with a 16-year-old as you do with a 61-year-old.”
McCowen’s main role includes working with Opportunities for Post-Secondary Success, a program assisting CSU students with disabilities in their role as a college student. Also, she helps facilitate the THRIVE program in the summer which addresses job readiness and exploration for 15-21-year olds.
As she continued talking about some of her favorite things in her new role, she shared, “I think the CCP’s value lies in transitions – between high school and work or college, between community college and a university or between school and work. These are the spaces where people face new challenges and are often lost. The CCP acts like a bridge to the next role or phase in their life.”
Looking forward to the continued programs and developments at the CCP she said, “I get excited about what new programs might lead us forward or what new campus or community links we can develop.”
Not only does McCowen enjoy learning and growing in her new roles at the CCP, she also finds enjoyment in her many hobbies including reading, painting, baking, and hiking. Lately, in her free time, McCowen shared, “I’ve recently been working on my quarantine down dog and joined the sourdough starter bandwagon.”
Supporting others in living their best lives
Renier, who joined the CCP in April 2020, shared that she is very excited to be a disability specialist. “My main focus in this role is supporting people with job skills and ultimately helping them find and maintain employment,” she said.
Renier’s background and family were a big part of how she ended up working with people with disabilities. “I grew up in Virginia with my twin brother who has a few disabilities that have led him to using various social services. This encouraged my drive to keep learning about and improving resources,” shared Renier.
She continued sharing that she was surrounded by both her mom and older sister working as teachers and advocates in their community. Her fascination with human services and her human development and family studies degree from Pennsylvania State University have given her many opportunities to work with individuals in various settings such as therapeutic recreation, applied behavior analysis, respite care, and more. “I am so excited to be able to join the CCP team to continue to support others in living their best lives,” shared Renier.
When not engaging in her various virtual trainings and helping the CCP create an inclusive community, Renier enjoys traveling and learning to ski since her recent move to Colorado. She also enjoys spending lots of time with her husband and dog, Moose, along with hiking, camping, and off-roading.
Future open house
The CCP is very excited to welcome these two new employees. In addition to providing services in supported employment, opportunities for postsecondary success and THRIVE, the CCP provides many other services for the CSU campus and community including the New Start for Student Veterans program. Learn more about the various programs offered on the CCP’s website.
The CCP looks forward to welcoming the CSU and Fort Collins community to an open house in their new facilities in the Occupational Therapy Annex and Alder Hall to be held in the near future.