Empowering Students to 'Contribute to Society'

Nonprofit offers scholarships and practical support to people with disabilities

Article Highlights:
  • Incight is an organization dedicated to helping students with disabilities receive higher education and career opportunities.
  • Co-founded by Scott Hatley (who has Duchenne muscular dystrophy), the organization offers scholarships and helps students connect with internships and mentors. Help finding housing and with classroom assistive technology also are part of the group's services.
  • Incight publishes guidebooks for high school and college students with disabilities.
  • High expectations by parents and teachers are essential to success for students with disabilities, says Hatley.
by Quest Staff on April 1, 2010 - 4:11pm

QUEST Vol. 17, No. 2

Scott Hatley is the 30-year-old co-founder of Incight, a nonprofit organization based in Portland, Ore., that helps people with disabilities set and achieve career goals through scholarships, mentoring relationships, microloans and other resources.

Scott Hatley, who has Duchenne muscular dystrophy, is a co-founder of Incight.

Hatley, who has Duchenne muscular dystrophy, has been recognized twice by MDA with the Oregon Personal Achievement Award, and also has served as MDA state goodwill ambassador for Oregon. Outgoing and articulate, Hatley describes himself as “forward thinking, positively motivated, always wanting to keep growing. I don’t like to sit around and not do something. I’ve been a bit of an overachiever sometimes.”

He did sit still long enough to talk with Quest about Incight, the company he helped co-found in 2002 whose name is a hybrid of the word “incite” (to spark a passion) and “insight” (to possess intimate knowledge of a topic or situation). Incight’s mission is to “empower people with disabilities to contribute to society through the areas of education, employment, networking and independence.”

Quest: Why did you decide to start Incight?

Hatley: Only about 18 percent of people with disabilities graduate from college, and only one in five graduates actually has a full-time job. When looking at these statistics it was clear something needed to be done. I and a few classmates decided to start a nonprofit. We knew it needed to help people with disabilities contribute to society. We felt that education was an important starting point. It’s been a huge focus for us. In the high school realm we reach out and say to kids, “You can go to college and get a job and here are some tangible steps available to reach those dreams.”

On the education side, Incight offers scholarships and gets colleges to match those scholarships. We help people find internships, build their resume, attend job fairs, secure full-time employment, and learn how to be more independent. We also help people find housing. We have two offices of Incight, one in Portland and one in Palm Desert, Calif. In Palm Desert, we’ve been able to do a lot with assistive technology in the classroom, jobs, internships and scholarships.

Looking forward to the next five years, the opportunities in technology will be incredible for people with disabilities. It will make it easier for those with disabilities to pursue their dreams. For example, I’m impressed with the progression Microsoft has made on Windows 7, which has onscreen keyboards and speech-to-text options built into the operating system. They’re including these things right in the system — how universal access/universal design is that?

Quest: You’ve said that when you were growing up, your family never gave you any special treatment for having a disability. You were expected to do chores and achieve just like your sister, who does not have a disability. What was your educational path?

Hatley: When I was growing up, the expectation was, “you are going to go to college.” For many people with disabilities, there is not a lot of expectation. In high school I wanted to be a sports writer and journalist for a newspaper. I had an opportunity to be the sports editor of my high school newspaper while working for a small publication in Portland for the deaf and hard of hearing. I wrote about great athletes who overcame their deafness to achieve success. It was rewarding, but I realized quickly that news deadlines weren’t quite my cup of soup.

So in college I switched from journalism to the major of organizational communications, which had business, marketing, communications and PR. At that time I wasn’t thinking, “I’m going to start a nonprofit,” but it evolved. My college, University of Portland, is a Catholic school, focused on the pillars of teaching, faith and service, and it stuck. I became inspired to want to contribute to society and use my gifts to make it better.

Quest: How does someone apply for an Incight scholarship?

Hatley: High school students through grad students can apply. The basic requirement is a documented disability and that you fill out an application. We also want people who are committed to being in school, so you must be a full-time student, or part-time and working.

We’ve given out 353 scholarships since 2004. Last year, we gave out 100 scholarships of $750. We’re also working with colleges to match our scholarships, so it turns into $1,500. Right now about 20 colleges match our scholarships. Our funding comes from individual supporters, fundraisers, foundations and corporations, and also the college guide, which is being sold to colleges.

The scholarships are renewable, and we also work with recipients to help them get internships in their field of study.

Quest: What is the college guide?

Hatley: Getting Ready for Life at College is a resource guide about preparing students with disabilities and their families for post-secondary education and the transition to life beyond the educational setting. The High School Guide for Students with Disabilities is designed to aid high school underclassmen in thinking about their future, obstacles in their way and what they will be doing after high school. These guides are ideal for teachers, families and youth, and also are being sold to high schools and colleges across the country. So far, five colleges in Oregon have picked up the college guide for their students.

Take "the leap" and ask a respected person to be your mentor, advises Hatley.

We recommend colleges buy three guides for every student with a disability, with the idea that one goes to the student, one to the parent/guardian, and one to the person’s roommate or resident assistant or professor. We’re trying to think about how this guide can help support these students outside of them just having a copy of it.

The third guide, The ADA Compliance Guide, is geared toward businesses.

Quest: What is Incight’s motto?

Hatley: On the back of my chair is a bumper sticker that reads “Handicrap.” It was coined by Incight co-founder Vail Horton. “Handicrap” is a limiting mindset that holds people back. It is any barrier keeping those with disabilities — and those without — from moving beyond their boundaries and succeeding in life. We all have barriers which we need to work to overcome in being contributing members of society.

I tell students with disabilities that anything is possible. For my own life, I just have to keep working at it one day at a time. You are not going to achieve success overnight; you have to work at it. The obstacles can seem insurmountable, but one step at a time you can tackle anything. There are resources out there to help you succeed and people willing to help and mentor you through that process. I was able to find some great mentors in my life and they have pushed me to be more than I was. Of course, it didn’t just fall in my lap. I took the leap and asked people to be my mentors. That has given me the courage to tackle projects, even being part of creating this organization. I had a lot of people out there helping me along the way.

To learn more about Incight’s programs, apply for a scholarship or purchase a resource guide book, visit www.incight.org, call (971) 244-0305 or write 310 SW 4th Avenue, Suite 530; Portland, OR 97204. Scott Hatley can be e-mailed at scott@incight.org.

See also:

  • Read the “Finding Care Givers” chapter from Incight’s guide book, Getting Ready for Life at College.
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