MSU Tower Guard continues long tradition of helping students with disabilities
Up the narrow stairs and tight walls of the 89-year-old Beaumont Tower, the second floor of this MSU landmark is home to one of the most historic clubs on campus.
“May Shaw saw a need on campus, and she did what she could to fulfill it,” Marisa Thum, an animal science sophomore and president of MSU Tower Guard, said.
Originally a female honor society, the MSU Tower Guard helps students who are part of the Resource Center for Persons with Disabilities, or RCPD, by taking notes for them in classes, reading exams out loud, writing down answers and one-on-one tutoring. All of these are part of the required 120 hours throughout their sophomore year, which is the only year they can participate in Tower Guard.
Thum said she finds it interesting that the organization was exclusively for females until 1977, considering that a majority of organizations on campus first begin exclusively for males.
“Maybe that was part of what factored into her decision, that she felt like women needed an avenue and something they could help with that wasn’t so male dominated,” Thum said.
Those who want to be part of MSU Tower Guard have to be in the top 5 percent grade-point average of their freshman class after the first semester and go through a thorough selection process.
One of the newest members of MSU Tower Guard, education sophomore Monica Isza, said she found out about MSU Tower Guard during Academic Orientation Program, or AOP, and decided it was something she wanted to pursue.
“The biggest thing for me was working with the RCPD students and helping them be able to become successful,” Isza said. “That’s a big part of what I want to do as a teacher ... I want to have an inclusive classroom and being able to work with RCPD students and get this experience, will be more beneficial for me in the long run.”
Thum said she had no idea about MSU Tower Guard until she got a “big envelope” in the mail.
“I was like, ‘Am I in trouble?’” Thum said. “I opened it up and I was like, ‘Oh, this is something (I'd) actually really enjoy being a part of.’ It was a good surprise.”
The reason for a tough selection process, Thum said, is to make sure the best of the best are selected and can balance the 60 hours per semester workload for their sophomore year with academics, even if there are people outside of the top 5 percent who are qualified.
“It’s such a long standing tradition, and I feel like it’s such an integral part of MSU that even if people don’t know about it, It’s an important organization that’s been there for a very long time," Thum said. "I think it’s the best system they can use.”
Thum has been doing this her whole life, she said, as her brother has Sotos syndrome, which occurs when there’s physical overgrowth in a person’s first years of life that can cause learning disabilities and/or delayed development of mental and movement abilities.
Thum said helping her brother at home influenced her not only to join the MSU Tower Guard, but to see an organization that aligned with her goals and what she enjoys.
“I really like figuring out how to change something and teach in a different way so that it clicks,” Thum said. “There’s something satisfying about talking about it in different ways, and then you finally find that thing that works.”
For English senior and public relations chair for MSU Tower Guard Rebecca Fadler, the joy for her comes with her passion to help people.
Fadler said being on the e-board at MSU Tower Guard has given her a new appreciation for not only the work that’s put into MSU Tower Guard, but the work of the general members of the organization.
“There the ones that go out and make it happen,” Fadler said. “They are just phenomenal ... they’re really incredible people.”