By Diana Purtz
“Yoga has been something I have participated in for myself. I had hoped I could integrate my yoga training into my work as an occupational therapist, but I did not know what that would look like at the time, “said Stacey Nichols. An alumna of Colorado State University, Nichols has been an employee at the Center for Community Partnerships since graduating with a M.S. in occupational therapy in 2009.
Women Veterans’ Yoga Project
“Last year some co-workers brought up that they would like me to informally hold a yoga session for them, which sort of pushed me to get my yoga certification,” stated Nichols. After completing her 200-hour yoga teacher certification, Nichols wanted to find a way to bring yoga to participants at CCP. Through New Start for Student Veterans, a CCP program that helps CSU student veterans achieve success, Nichols began to lead yoga sessions for a few women student veterans. Then, with colleagues from CCP, Nichols helped to write a successful grant proposal, which helped launch the Women Veterans’ Yoga Project in the fall of 2016. Through this project, yoga classes are offered weekly on CSU’s campus at no cost to the veterans.
The Women Veterans’ Yoga Project, sponsored in partnership by the Women and Gender Collaborative, New Start for Student Veterans Program and Adult Learner and Veteran Services Office, and in support of the Women Veteran Initiative, was designed to address the specific needs of women veterans at CSU and to provide opportunities for these women to enhance health and wellness, develop community, and share resources. “Yoga can be a great resource for building self-confidence, reconnecting with one’s body, as well as for providing stress-relief and relaxation,” advocated Nichols.
The Women Veterans’ Yoga Project, now up and running, recently received two years of funding from the Women and Gender Collaborative, which will help the project to reach more women veterans, including students, faculty, and staff. With greater outreach, the program co-leaders hope to continue to expand and support more participants.
Yoga is just one of the many services Nichols delivers as the direct services coordinator for CCP. In collaboration with Foothills Gateway and the Department of Vocational Rehabilitation, Nichols works directly with participants with intellectual and developmental disabilities in Larimer County to provide supported employment services. This includes the assessment, job placement, and ongoing support of these individuals, which helps them to maintain their competitive community employment, as well as to promote successful workplace engagement. Most of Nichols’ time at CCP, however, is spent providing job coaching support for Poudre School District students involved in Project Search, a post-high school transition program for youth with intellectual and developmental disabilities. She initially provides one-to-one employment services at job or internship sites, then fades out supports as participants grow more comfortable and independent and as natural supports are developed.
“I have seen a number of Project Search graduates have the opportunity to move out on their own because of the skills learned and the employment gained through the program,” explained Nichols. “They feel more fully engaged in life by being employed, and are able to contribute to society and to earn a living.”
Nichols finds her work at CCP rewarding, and says it reinforces her vision of occupational therapy service delivery in natural community settings. She utilizes a whole-hearted approach in order to promote independence, health, and overall life engagement with her participants across a variety of programs, jobs and activities. Nichols concluded “I love CCP and everything we do. To me, it’s true occupational therapy – real life, natural, occupation-based services that help enhance quality of life for individuals with disabilities.”