Patrick Amie, a Colorado State University student and veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, was deployed among the initial ground troops to Iraq from April 2003 – March 2004. While in Iraq, Amie was exposed to multiple explosions and was involved in a vehicular accident caused from an improvised explosive device, which resulted in him sustaining a traumatic brain injury, or TBI.
Writing has always been a passion of Amie’s, a senior English major who will graduate from Colorado State in May with a concentration in creative writing.
“This has not been an easy path,” Amie said. “As a result of the TBI, I have struggled immensely over the past eight years that I have been taking college classes.”
Students such as Amie have been helped by fellow veteran, Dennis Repp, a 1960 CSU alumus who has donated more than $1.5 million to the New Start Program, housed in the Center for Community Partnerships in the university’s nationally ranked Department of Occupational Therapy.
Amie had to overcome his own “inner demons” that many times come with combat experiences, but reading comprehension, memory and organizational skills also have posed problems for him since he’s been out of the Army.
CSU’s New Start Program, provides individualized services and support for student veterans with sustained injuries that impact their ability to succeed in college and in civilian life. Through New Start, participating student veterans develop strategies to deal with learning difficulties, memory problems, accessibility issues and an array of challenges that create barriers to their success. The New Start Program also benefits CSU’s occupational therapy students, who work with student veterans while learning about the challenges of specific disabilities and formulating strategies for addressing these challenges.
The program is able to offer services to student veterans at no cost, thanks to a generous contribution from Repp. Repp is particularly sensitive to the challenges that veterans face as they return from active duty, enter civilian life and enroll in college, especially those veterans who have sustained injuries while in the military.
When Repp learned about the New Start Program in 2012, he said he knew he wanted to help the program grow. Repp provided $50,000 to help the CSU program begin to serve student veterans, and then later gave $1.5 million to establish the Repp Distinguished Veterans Fund supporting New Start. The fund ensures that student veterans have the opportunity to get a new start on their lives and succeed in college and in life after serving our country.
“I am pleased to support the New Start Program, which is unique in its focus on fostering success for student veterans with disabilities and integrating them back into college life. This exciting work is happening because of the vision and passion of Cathy Schelly and the Center for Community Partnerships at Colorado State, who really care about people,” Repp said.
“With Dennis’ involvement we’ve focused on students at CSU,” said Schelly, director of the Center for Community Partnerships and founder and director of the New Start Program. “It is an honor to work with these men and women. Seeing them succeed, enjoy their college experience and get off to a new start with their lives is a pleasure.”
The program builds on nearly 30 years of nationally recognized outreach by the Center for Community Partnerships, both on campus and in the Fort Collins community. The center focuses on supporting and guiding individuals to pursue their dreams and life goals, in spite of disability. Through New Start, student veterans develop strong self-advocacy skills such as working with their professors for access to materials before a lecture, time to prepare assignments, and help preparing for tests to compensate for short-term memory loss related to TBI.
“I can personally attest to the value of new technology and resources made available to me through New Start, as well as the Assistive Technology Resource Center,” Amie said. “I am now able to have my textbooks converted to electronic format, and by using adaptive software, I can listen to audio playback of my text while following on a computer screen.”
“I cannot express how deeply grateful I am to Mr. Repp, as well as Colorado State University, for ensuring that my long-awaited final year is filled with hope, excitement and joy,” Amie said. “I will certainly leave here with very good memories.”
On Oct. 4, Repp received the Willam E. Morgan Alumni Achievement Award, the highest award given by CSU’s Alumni Association, for a lifetime of extraordinary accomplishments in business and philanthropy. Repp has provided seed capital to launch many successful ventures and build his own companies, which have spurred the invention of multilayered circuit boards, identification of DNA mutant genes and sorting devices for copy machines.
The Center for Community Partnerships and the Department of Occupational Therapy are part of the College of Health and Human Sciences, formerly the College of Applied Human Sciences.