The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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ACHIEVE program helps Aggies with student disabilities on campus

Photo by Photo by Angelina Alcantar

Aggie ACHIEVEMates are partnered with students of Aggie ACHIEVE to be a friend and support system.

ACHIEVE, a Texas A&M organization founded in 2019, assists students with intellectual and developmental disabilities. It’s a four-year program where students live on campus for their first two years and are able to receive help from ACHIEVE staff. For the next two years, the students live with their families or in off-campus housing to gain independence while still receiving help from the ACHIEVE team. 

ACHIEVE is well-rounded program that truly tries to cover every aspect of a participant’s life. They offer study halls for students to receive help from graduate students, a nutritionist to make sure students are eating right and kinesiology classes for proper exercise and opportunities to see their friends. 

“[ACHIEVE] really supports and helps young people to get ready to go out to the community and be able to find a job and live independently,” Effrosyni Chatzistogianni, a graduate assistant for the program said. “They do that by giving the students the opportunity to function inside a college and learn the college life and gain academic knowledge.”    

Chatzistogianni said students are encouraged to go out for different organizations on campus and to be as involved as possible. 

“We don’t just push certain organizations,” Chatzistogianni said. “We encourage them to apply to the organizations that best interest them.” 

 Chatzistogianni said for many students going to every home football game is the highlight of their week and that ACHIEVE students are no different. 

”We have some big football fans in the program,” Chatzistogianni said. “These students want to have the same experience as every other Aggie.” 

For this to be possible, Chatzistogianni said it takes a great deal of effort from the ACHIEVE staff. 

“I haven’t met a single person who doesn’t work who doesn’t put 100% effort,” said Chatzistogianni. 

What many students don’t know about is Aggie ACHIEVE Mates. These are students who are paired with an ACHIEVE student to help them with their academics or can just be a friend to them and achieve students are incredibly proud of their achieve-mates. Chatzistogianni, more than anything, said they want students to know about this opportunity to help their peers and fellow Aggies. 

“I just hope that they do their best to include this student or not see these students as a separate group,” Chatzistogianni said. “They’re a part of Texas A&M.” 

Achieve-Mate and special education major Hailey Dieringer is a wellness partner for Courtney. As Dieringer explained, this means they get together and work out or research healthy new recipes. There are different kinds of partners that students can volunteer for. Students can be a wellness partner, an academic partner to help with homework, a planning partner, goal-setter, and so many more. Dieringer said she and her partner Courtney see each other multiple times throughout the week to improve physical health. 

“Courtney has cerebral palsy so sometimes the balance on the treadmill is hard, but she’s gotten a lot better at it,” Dieringer said. “We’re trying to work up to her going to Orange Theory with me. Her goal is to work there.” 

Achieve-Mate and special education major Lauren Cimrhanzl is a lunch buddy for a student on campus. Cimrhanzl said she believes that this experience has shifted her perspective on the university. 

“I love to see how inclusive the university actually is … it’s easy to get into a tunnel vision and do your everyday things and worry about yourself,”  Cimrhanzl said. “But getting involved with achieve mates has made me realize there is so much more to campus and I love the relationships we’ve made. It’s a whole part of campus that I didn’t know existed.”

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