Outstanding grad overcomes disabilities, advocates for fellow students

Check out this story about one of our colleagues!

Kendal Nolan
Kendal Nolan

Kendal Nolan has continuously proven people wrong, showing that factors that many people would consider setbacks are actually her main motivators.

“I have two disabilities, autism spectrum disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder – when I enrolled I hadn’t been diagnosed with OCD yet – but I know what it is like to struggle and receive help, and I want to help others with disabilities,” Nolan said.

Nolan is an outstanding Department of Human Development and Family Studies graduate who will be graduating with a cumulative GPA of 3.89 this fall.

Passionate advocate

Nolan is devoted to helping those around her, and this is reflected through her many involvements. Nolan was a peer mentor for the Department of Occupational Therapy’s Center for Community Partnerships program, called Bridge, helping incoming freshmen and transfer students transition to CSU. She later became assistant director and was involved in implementing new elements to the program.

During her time at CSU, Nolan was also a research assistant for Susan Hepburn, professor in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies, working with individuals on the autism spectrum. Nolan is currently the vice president of the board of directors for a non-profit organization called The Arc of Larimer County, which advocates for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. She is also a volunteer at the Alliance for Suicide Prevention of Larimer Country.

Nolan has dedicated her time to advocating for students and individuals with disabilities, something that Is personal for her.

“I have always struggled with self-confidence and self-acceptance,” Nolan said. I hated myself for most of my life for being ‘different’ and not fitting in and was bullied a lot as a kid. I was constantly told that I wasn’t good enough by other kids. But my parents, who are amazing, always believed in me.

Choosing CSU

Kendal Nolan
Kendal Nolan

Nolan started her academic journey at Front Range Community College where she earned her associate’s degree before enrolling at CSU to pursue her degree in human development and family studies.

“I chose HDFS because it leads to professions to work with people and help them,” Nolan said.

Nolan has credited a few of her mentors for helping her throughout her journey here at CSU, finding this guidance through her participation in the Opportunities for Post-Secondary Success program through CCP. The individuals that helped her include Sara Freeman and Julia Kothe in the Department of Occupational Therapy who both worked with her OCD, Jen Krafchick, associate professor in HDFS, who helped her set up accommodations with her internship, and Brittany Otter who is an interim director for the Student Disability Center at CSU.

For her internship, Nolan worked with the Student Disability Center and spearheaded the development of a disability cultural center, where students could meet each other, socialize, as well as engage in advocacy.

Plans after graduation

After graduation Nolan will be interning with the CCP as a research associate and will be working with grant writing as well as mentoring students in the OPS program. She will also continue her literature review work on females on the autism spectrum through the lifespan, with Hepburn.

Adjusting to COVID-19

Adjusting to life during a pandemic has been difficult for Nolan, especially when living with an anxiety disorder, but she has her friends and family as a support system. She has learned to make the best of the situation and has learned to appreciate those around her in creative ways.

Nolan is planning to use this time to create a scrapbook dedicated to her academic journey, and also hopes to take a couple of vacations once it is safe to travel.

As for her departure from CSU, Nolan will miss the faculty and staff.

“I have had many great professors in HDFS such as Jaime Rotner and Allyson Brothers, and one in psychology named Karla Gingerich,” she said. “I wish I could take more HDFS classes. I love learning about human development. I will also miss the staff at the Student Disability Center.”

The Department of Human Development and Family Studies is part of CSU’s College of Health and Human Sciences.