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CU Personality: Kasey Martinelli

A DOGGONE GREAT ADVOCATE FOR DISABLED STUDENTS

Most people go through life not thinking about the simple things that help them get through their day. Things like walking up the stairs, opening a door, and walking around campus to get to class on time are second nature.

However, there are people who do need to think about these things. The disability-accessible button to open a door can be a quick way for someone to get inside when their hands are full, but for those that need it, it can be the difference between going to class or going back home.

Kasey Martinelli, a CU Denver pre-medical student, is one of the most recognized students on campus. She’s often seen walking around campus with a golden retriever in tow and uses her notoriety to speak to students about disability awareness.

Martinelli works with the Disability Resource Service office on campus, raising awareness for disabled students on campus and their rights. She has helped them with multiple events including the Disability Awareness Festival and a disability awareness film event.

Martinelli began having epileptic seizures 10 years ago while she was growing up in Gallup, New Mexico, a town she says was not disability-friendly. Though she has medications to control her epilepsy, the seizures have caused brain damage over the years, making school more challenging for her than most traditional students.

When Martinelli decided to move to Denver, she needed help monitoring her seizures as she was going to be on her own for the first time. She decided that a service dog would be the best route to gain her independence. Charming, her service dog, is 18 months old and has been with Martinelli since he was two months old, and he has given her the ability to live by herself. “This is the first time I’ve really ever been able to be alone,” Martinelli said. “I feel so safe now that my dog takes care of me.”

Growing up, Martinelli felt sensitive, even a little ashamed about her health problems. “I always hated the fact that I had all this wrong with me,” she said. During her search for Charming, Martinelli met other people with similar disabilities through a service dog organization who made her feel included and helped her accept her disabilities.

“I met a bunch of people who were really proud of the fact that they were disabled,” Martinelli said. “All these people were fighting for awareness and accessibility for all.” Martinelli has a new sense of pride in herself which showed her that she did not need to be ashamed of her disabilities. Now, Martinelli is the CU Denver service dog advocate and winner of the David Lacey scholarship for students with disabilities who have made academic achievements.

The Disability Resource Services office on campus offers students with disabilities a multitude of accommodations to aid their studies. “If you have a hard time writing we can get you a note-taker or a recorder if you need to record a lecture,” Martinelli said. The office also contacts teachers to communicate what a disabled student needs on a case-by-case basis.

Martinelli is a real-life example of a person who has overcome adversity. Not only does she show the will to succeed despite her struggles, but she goes out of her way to help others with theirs. Students on Auraria Campus should take a leaf out of Martinelli’s book by having pride in themselves and reflecting that onto others.

Photo: Thane Fernandes

Dylan Streight
Dylan Streight

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