Kellyann Navarre

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Kellyann Navarre lives in Monroe, Michigan and attends the University of Toledo. Majoring in Psychology, she is also pursuing a minor in Disability Studies. Kellyann lives with an information processing disorder, hearing loss, and other psychiatric disabilities. These challenges affect her ability to retain information while studying but does not limit her academic and professional goals.

She credits her experience with disability for further igniting her passion for inclusion and accessibility.

Her area of study offers Kellyann an opportunity to make a broad impact and positive change for others living with similar conditions. Combining her interest with disability and health care, she aims to break the stigma around mental health.

Throughout college, Kellyann has maintained a 4.0 GPA and remains active in the American Sign Language Club. She valued hands-on work experience as a Program Coordinator at The Ability Center’s Next Steps Summer Program where she worked one-on-one with students with disabilities. In fall 2019, she will apply for her doctorate in clinical physiology and further her work in the medical field.

Future plans also include teaching college classes, leading psychoeducation groups, and advocating for people living with all types of disabilities. Kellyann channels her energy into her love for writing, martial arts, and ability to connect with people though her work in and out of the classroom.

University of Toledo Pressor, Lori Jo Couch, explains, “Kellyann is exceptionally bright, determined, and self-motivated. I am amazed by the effort and time she is willing to dedicate to every job and assignment. She is also very dependable and trustworthy. If I ask her to complete a task, I am certain it will be completed in a timely and professional manner.”

  • Monroe County Community College: Writing Fellow of the Year Award (2016-17), Outstanding Social Science
  • Student of the Year Award (2016-17), President's Academic Achievement Award (2016-17), Dean's List & Highest
  • Honors (4.0 GPA), George Rhodes Scholarship (2015-16), Writing Fellow Honors Program/Scholarship (2014-17).
  • UT: President's List (4.0 GPA), Psi Chi Honors Society (2018-present), Legacy Award (2017-19), Honors Thesis

Essay
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I have multiple disabilities, including auditory and information processing disorders, some hearing loss, as well as three psychiatric disabilities. I was also born with a rare congenital disorder called amelogenesis imperfecta (Al). Together, these disabilities make up an integral part of who I am and my experience of the world.

Hours go by, sometimes up to six hours, as I relisten to the recorded lectures of my college classes, because I did not entirely hear, process, or comprehend as much as half the information in class. Add another few hours for homework and studying, because it can take me twice as long as other people to study and retain information. Every day. Mundane occurrences that people may not consider, such as ordering food at a restaurant, the accessibility and subtitles of a movie theater, trying to check out food at a grocery store, and trying to retain, hear, and respond to information during simple conversations, college lectures, or meetings, are all impacted by my disabilities.

In a college class a few years ago, the instructions for an in-class project were given verbally, quickly, and all at once. I was lost in the volume and speed of information. As the rest of the students began and finished the project before me, I asked for a repeat of some instructions. Instead, I was called out for "not paying attention the first time" and "holding up the rest of the class." In other instance, I was called "borderline human," scary, and received an anonymous death threat, because of my psychiatric disabilities.

For six years, I lacked access to treatments. I lost my best friend to suicide, as he also lacked access to treatments. These moments sum up the responses, microaggressions, and barriers I encounter daily in response to my disabilities. In a world that places stringent expectations and norms on appearance, social interactions, and state of being in the world, it is often assumed my disabilities reflect a "lack of intelligence, effort, or time management."

Yes, my disability experience is not pain-free, there are social barriers and stigma, as well as painful symptoms and exhausting characteristics; nonetheless, I have gained a rich understanding of the full spectrum of human difference and am part of a wonderful disability community.

My disabilities are part of my human difference, my empathy and passions, and are part of who I am, for better or worse. Every second spent in the ER and hospital, therapy, medication trial, and every second of stigma, pain, and grief, has touched my life in a way that motivates change. College to me is never just another class, just another book, or just another paper. It is a way to change how I live in the world, it is a way to access knowledge with the potential to impact the lives of people around me, it is a way to create accessibility and futures, and it is a way to believe in myself. As a psychology major and disability studies minor, this scholarship can help pave the way of contributing to this positive change in the lives of individuals impacted by mental illness and disability.

My first career focus includes stigma reduction, treatment, and service accessibility. I plan to directly challenge stigma and inaccessible approaches in health care and treatment settings, in the public, the workplace, and in the education system.

For example, as I am a partially deaf individual, I aim to expand mental health services to a more diverse group who may be D/deaf, Hard of Hearing, or individuals with other verbal or communication disabilities who often lack access to care. I strive to be the change I want to see in the system, driven by empathy and my lived experience of these difficulties. I also plan to advocate on behalf of my future clients, people with disabilities, and contribute to positive change by promoting an increase in public and professional understanding of mental health, disability, and accessibility.

My second area of focus in research includes suicide prevention and emotion regulation. Overall, I strive to improve the services and treatment outcomes for people with disabilities and mental illness to increase life skills, independent living, coping skills and health.

Since high school and beginning college, I have made immense efforts and progress to prepare and develop myself to contribute to this change. I graduated high school at the age of sixteen with a 3.9 GPA. During my first year at Monroe County Community College, I was nominated to work as a writing fellow in the writing center. I eventually took on the role of the committee director. Now transferred to the University of Toledo, I currently work in three psychology research labs, was recently accepted to write an undergraduate honors thesis, and have achieved authorship to present our research findings at conferences. In addition, I am in the process of writing a second thesis with the disability studies department, with a focus on stigma and the impact it has on accessibility, treatment outcomes, and the etiology and solutions for these barriers. I have since been asked to be a speaker and advocate for multiple mental health events across the country, including New York City and multiple webinars.

Looking heading into my career, I will be applying to a doctorate clinical psychology program this upcoming fall. Even further, in addition to research, I plan to carry out these changes by teaching college classes, leading psychoeducation groups and psychotherapy, and continuing advocacy and public speaking.

Nonetheless, to contribute to this change in the lives of people with mental illnesses and disabilities, I need great financial support to continue my education. I live in a single parent home with my mom and brother, in which my mom provides my support.