New scholarship established for BHSU special education majors

Author: BHSU Communications/Sunday, September 11, 2011/Categories: 2014

A Spearfish couple is supporting the education program at Black Hills State University through a new scholarship for students who plan to work within the special education field after graduation.

Angela Rose, an early childhood special education major from Rapid City, was the first recipient of the $15,000 Amy and Michelle Emmert Scholarship for the 2014-2015 academic year.

Arlan and Beverly Emmert, Spearfish, created the scholarship as a way to honor their daughter, Amy, who was born with cerebral palsy, a childbirth disorder that affects muscle tone and movement and motor skills.

"When Amy was alive, the teachers and people who worked with her meant a lot to us," Arlan Emmert said. "We want to encourage special education majors to continue with their career choice. If we can provide a little help we sure want to do that."

Rose is the first recipient of the new scholarship. Once she earns her degree, Rose said she wants to pursue a career with special needs students in the preschool setting.

Prior to enrolling at BHSU, Rose worked with autistic children. She always had a passion for teaching and this job encouraged her to continue her education.

"This scholarship was a lifesaver," Rose said. "I'm a single mom going to school and working part time. This allows me to get back on my feet, continue my education and pursue my passion."

The Amy & Michelle Emmert Scholarship recipient must be a junior or senior early childhood special education major and plan to pursue a career in the classroom.

"Number one, we wanted someone who was truly committed to a career in special education," Arlan said. "Someone who demonstrated the passion and compassion for students that need special help.

"Grade point exhibits the commitment to getting an education, but we wanted a student who can most improve the life of children like Amy and their families," he added.

Arlan and Beverly Emmert moved to Spearfish just over a year ago. It was at a BHSU basketball game that he decided to do something more for the students who attend the University. At one of the first basketball games he attended the players introduced a favorite professor and the team&rsquos GPA was announced prior to tipoff.

"I'd never seen a university do that. It really impressed us," Arlan said. "We like the people at the University, the students we've met and we're living here now. Offering a scholarship seemed like the logical thing to do."

Beverly Emmert added that once they discovered BHSU had a special education program, everything fell into place.

The scholarship is also named after Amy&rsquos younger sister, Michelle, who wrote a book called "I'm the Big Sister Now," sharing with readers what it was like to be Amy's sister. Michelle Emmert, who is now the assistant dean for Student Affairs at Western University of Health Sciences in Pomona, Calif., wrote the book in the fourth grade for a writing contest. The book is filled snippets from Michelle and Amy's childhood, including mentions of Amy's special education teacher.

"It was a great way to keep Amy's memory ongoing," Michelle Emmert said. "We had a very unique relationship for siblings, especially when one had a disability. We served as role models to other people."

Michelle Emmert said when she wrote the book as a child she didn&rsquot realize how special her relationship was with her sister. She also didn&rsquot realize the impact her book would have on her family and classrooms around the world.

"I'm a Big Sister Now" has been printed for fourth grade reading programs in the United States and Canada and translated into Japanese and Finnish. Michelle Emmert speaks in classrooms and receives fan mail from young readers asking questions about Michelle and Amy.

"Many of the books about cerebral palsy are medical-related," Beverly Emmert added. "This book appeals to families and tells them what life is like for a special education child."

"It was just a school project. Amy was just my sister," Michelle Emmert said. "It wasn't until I was older that I really grasped what my family's story meant. Now I'm excited that we're supporting someone else who has a passion for serving those with special needs."

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