Health science student wins national award
Shannon Whalen, right, with Iva Obrusnikova, assistant professor in the Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences and director of the Delaware Adapted Sports Club.


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9:17 a.m., April 1, 2010----Shannon Whalen, who completed her bachelor of science degree in health and physical education at the University of Delaware in December 2009, has received a Student Recognition Award from the Adapted Physical Activity Council (APAC).

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The award was conferred on March 18 at the National Convention and Exposition of the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (AAHPERD) in Indianapolis.

APAC gives three awards annually -- one each to students at the bachelor's, master's, and doctoral levels. Recipients are selected on the basis of showing exceptional promise as leaders, providing exceptional service to individuals with disabilities, and/or providing an inspiration to others in the field of physical education, therapeutic recreation, or related areas such as aquatics or dance.

Whalen, who collaborated with senior Lauren Van Hise on a summer service learning project at UD to increase fitness levels in children with Asperger syndrome, presented a poster and paper on the work at the conference. The two students were advised by Iva Obrusnikova, assistant professor in the Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences and director of the Delaware Adapted Sports Club.

“Shannon has truly been an inspiration to many para-professionals and professionals, including myself,” says Obrusnikova. “She has volunteered many hours in the community and shows exceptional promise in the field of adapted physical activity.”

Whalen began working at Perryville and Bainbridge elementary schools in Maryland in February, filling in for the remainder of the school year for a teacher on maternity leave.

“My work with the sports club and UD's Health and Physical Education program has provided me with important skills I will transfer into my school district, as they have prepared me to perform at a high level,” she says. “I always had great teachers who were positive role models for me, which is what motivated me to be a teacher. I love being able to get creative in my teaching and make a connection with each of my students -- it shows them that you care about them and helps make the content more relevant to them.”

What surprised Whalen most about the summer experience with the sports club was realizing that she could have an impact on others in such a short period of time.

“We saw the students twice a week, so we didn't always notice changes or improvements right away,” she says. “But at the end of the summer camp, we received overwhelming support from the parents, and the students didn't want to leave. They had really bonded with us and with each other. It was incredibly moving to see that.”

Article by Diane Kukich