Chris Grant guides toward self-advocacy
“What I appreciate most about RCC is the ‘students first’ attitude displayed by administration, faculty, and classified staff,” says Chris Grant, coordinator of Disability Services at RCC.
Grant began his own college career at a two-year school, earning an associate’s degree from College of the Redwoods. He went on to receive a bachelor’s degree at Humboldt State University and a master’s in counseling from Sonoma State University.
Prior to joining RCC in 2004 as a counselor doing academic and career advising, Grant worked for a children’s shelter in Sonoma County, Calif. He has also taught psychology and human development classes at Rogue.
“Knowing that I could come to Chris and address questions and concerns was big. He’s personable and knowledgeable,” said Teddy Walston, an RCC graduate now working as an academic advisor.
He added that Grant “made sure I was advocating for myself, which is something all people should do.”
RCC graduate comes full circle as advising assistant
Travel around RCC’s Riverside Campus with Teddy Walston and soon it becomes crystal clear that this man has never met a stranger.
All kinds of folks say “Hey, Teddy!” as he rolls along in his wheelchair. Walston conveys positive encouragement to everyone he greets, and his megawatt smile lights up the downtown Medford neighborhood.
Recently hired as a temporary part-time RCC advising assistant, Walston earned an Associate of Arts/Oregon Transfer degree from Rogue. He went on to Southern Oregon University, receiving a degree in human services. Always, though, he hoped to return to RCC and help other students.
“This is definitely a cool place to be. When I came here from New York nine years ago, I didn’t know what direction I was headed. RCC really helped me,” he recalled.
“Having just completed this process myself, I’m able to share insights with students. It’s an opportunity to help someone discover their dream and where they want to go. That’s important.”
Walston, 27, says many people at RCC helped him follow his dreams, especially Chris Grant and Guerin Fischer from the college’s Disabilities Services office.
“Knowing that I could come to Chris and address questions and concerns was big. He’s personable and knowledgeable,” Walston recalled. “RCC is a group of people with great hearts who care about students. That’s something I hope to bring to my position as an advising assistant.”
Heartfulness is a quality Walston delivered to his student leadership roles. As student government president, he helped launch “Star of Stars,” a benefit for La Clinica de Valle and RCC scholarships along with other projects.
Coming from the “ghetto of the ghetto” in New York, Walston says he was fortunate to attend Henry Viscardi High School on Long Island.
“It is a great school designed for kids with physical disadvantages,” said Walston, who was born with cerebral palsy. Before graduating in 1999, he was elected student body president, class clown, and captained the wheelchair hockey team (they scrimmaged the New York Rangers).
Walston encounters far less racial discrimination than when he first arrived in Medford, the hometown of his wife-to-be, Martina.
“But racism still needs to be addressed, especially in high schools,” he said. “I see institutions making conscious efforts to include people of all backgrounds and cultures. I see the changes happening, and I want to be a part of that.”
Walston says he felt well prepared for transferring from RCC to SOU.
“My foundation was rock solid. Chris and Guerin made sure I was advocating for myself, which is something all people should do. A key component of my education has been being secure,” Walston added. “You have to take pride in every moment and give your best all the time.”
In 2006 Walston was named an Outstanding Student Scholar, an award given annually by the Oregon Community College Association to two students from each of Oregon’s 17 community colleges. RCC staff members nominated Walston for his academic accomplishments, college activities, and service.
“Education is definitely the key,” Walston says. “In our economy, where everyone is expendable, a person with a physical impairment is even lower on the totem pole. You have to have a strong education, and that’s something I believe I received at RCC that has helped me to be successful. I knew college was something I had to do. I knew there was no option.”
He and Martina, a childcare provider, have been married two years. Walston’s five-year plan calls for earning a master’s degree in social work with a certificate in counseling. His 10-year vision involves starting a nonprofit organization that focuses on children with physical challenges.
“That would be a dream come true for me,” Walston said. “I’m thankful to RCC and all the people who helped me along the way,” he added. “I feel much more prepared for life.”
Have a story idea for the website? Please E-mail Rand Hill