By Jaida Brown
Sh’Vaela Colton takes up to 21 credits a semester, but she only gets credit for 12. She attends three classes regularly that she doesn’t pay for. She makes every effort to be in the classroom, learn the curriculum and take notes but she will never have to take the final exam.
Colton is a note taker for FSW Adaptive Services.
“I just wanted an on-campus job and I like helping people,” said Colton, a 20-year-old FSW student from Tarpon Springs, Florida. “It also gives me experience to better my note taking skills.”
Adaptive Services assigns note takers to students with disabilities who need hands-on services and accommodations to help them through school. Note takers must be dependable and adaptable to the students’ needs.
Colton is one of six note takers who help 20 disabled students this semester.
“It became a reality of how much the students depended on me when there were days where I really didn’t feel like going to class but then I realized I have to go because who else would go in for them?” said Colton. “And even further it became a reality when I realized that once I graduate someone must fill my spot that has the same passion or more for this kind of job. I know so many people are depending on us, and I take my job seriously.”
On top of her full-time school schedule, Colton balances three jobs.
Ever since she was young, her family instilled a working spirit in her.
“Both of my parents are educators and my mom opened her own school in Tarpon Springs,” said Colton. “I’ve always had to be hard working especially after seeing how long it took my mom to open up her own school.”
Colton currently takes three classes and is note taking for one student. Last semester, she took three classes and was note taking for four.
“This experience has taught me to not take schooling for granted because there are people who actually have disabilities and want to go to school and get their education, but physically can’t. And they need real accommodations like me, I help people to be able to go to school and get an education. And that’s really humbling to say.”
Paola Matta, a 21-year-old student from Puerto Rico registered with adaptive services, has worked with various note takers.
“I have met different people and that has helped me get out of my shell,” said Matta. “Everyone is kind.”
Colton was one of Matta’s previous note takers.
Colton said she “tries to interact with all of them (students) but some can’t interact too much.”
“One of the girls I took notes for was deaf and I didn’t know sign language, so I wasn’t able to interact with her without her interpreter,” said Colton. “I was only able to communicate with her through email.”
Matta also experienced communication challenges. She said it was difficult “to adapt and figure things out and to talk more”.
“I am really shy,” Matta said. “So it was really hard for me to open up.”
Despite this, Matta aims to be a writer or actress.
Colton aspires to be an elementary school teacher.
“I love kids. Both of my parents are educators,” she said. “I would like to be a fourth grade or firth grade teacher, to help teach those fundamental stages where students are really transforming and are mentally transitioning into.”
Colton believes her note taking job is also part of her education.
“This experience is going to broaden my knowledge with handling everyone in the education realm. It’s going to show me how different people are and how they act and learn,” Colton said. “When I become a teacher, I will be more aware of what my students need and just being able to fill that need. I’m getting to learn verbal and nonverbal communication that people don’t usually pick up.”