UNC student Kylene Quigley, who is partially blind, stands atop Grays Peak, one of two Colorado 14,000-foot peaks she climbed this summer. Photo courtesy of Kylene Quigley.
Three University of Northern Colorado students share their unique summer experience: one who overcame her disability to climb two Colorado fourteeners, another who worked on legislation in a U.S. senator's office and the third who worked with an L.A. movie production company.
Climbing Colorado's backcountry
With her CamelBak fastened, some trail mix in her bag and some good company, Kylene Quigley reached the summits of two Colorado fourteeners at the end of July.
The partially blind sophomore Sports and Exercise Science major climbed with a friend when the weather included bright blue skies and plenty of sunshine. Near the summits, Quigley encountered some snow and steep grades, making the climb harder than usual.
But for Quigley, challenges and being active is nothing new. She has been a competitive swimmer and kick boxer and has a list of things she wishes to accomplish in her life, including backpack camping, more climbing, a 6k run and maybe even a triathlon.
What most people don't know about Quigley is that she has Stargardts, a rare genetic eye disease. It causes her central vision to be scrambled and affects her peripheral vision, depth perception and her ability to see colors and details. She reads Braille and uses a high-powered magnifying glass for textbooks or audio books.
When asked to describe her experience this past summer, Quigley has no trouble providing a colorful description.
"The most amazing part about climbing the mountain is standing on the summit and looking around at a 360-degree view of the world," Quigley said. "You feel so insignificant and it's such an amazing feeling. It really puts things into perspective. You feel how small you are and how vast the world is and how beautiful everything is."
Quigley enjoys the challenges and conquering things that other people don't expect her to do.
"Not only was it a personal achievement, but it was also something that I think kind of was representative for all disabled people," Quigley said.
Quigley's future career goals include going to graduate school in the Orientation and Mobility program so she can work with people who are blind and visually impaired.
Working at the Capitol
Matthew VanDriel traveled to Washington, D.C., and worked a 10-week summer internship with U.S. Senator Mark Udall. VanDriel, a senior, is working on a triple major, studying political science, business and economics.
Other than focusing on health care and education issues, VanDriel also talked to constituents over the phone, wrote letters and researched bills, legislation and voting history.
While the work was rewarding, VanDriel's daily walk to work proved to be inspiring.
"In those five minutes I would walk by the Library of Congress, the United States Capitol, the Supreme Court, and then walk into our building," VanDriel said. "The feeling I got from that walk is hard to describe, but it was hard not to feel excited and motivated to go work for your country after making that walk."
VanDriel hopes to continue working in public service after graduation.
Behind the scenes in Hollywood
In Los Angeles, Carleen Endres is one step closer to her career goal of becoming a film or TV director or producer. She was one of 45 students nationwide to be awarded an internship by the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation from an applicant pool of about 1,200.
For two months Endres interned for The Hatchery, a production company. Her assignments included assisting with an upcoming holiday movie titled "Christmas in Canaan," written by Kenny Rogers and starring Billy Ray Cyrus. The movie will air on the Hallmark Channel.
Her other assignments ranged from reading scripts, treatments or books to writing a summary and commentary of what she read. She also researched different projects, which included researching actors and actresses.
Endres said the most challenging part of the internship was the move. But the distance gave her a taste of real life.
"For one, you kind of get out of your element so you're really out on your own and figuring out your way around," Endres said. "You have to make a way for yourself, but it's a great experience to go out and work with people in the industry."
Endres has applied for other internships in California and will be completing her degree at UNC through online courses. She expects to graduate in May.
- Christina Romero