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Redwood SEED Scholars Karis, Kiara and Kai at Shields Library, where they work on the Interlibrary Loan and Stacks Maintenance teams (Kiara did not participate in this interview). (UC Davis Library/Danny Gu)

Meet our Redwood SEED Scholars 

Scholars Cultivate Confidence, Community at UC Davis Library

March is Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month, and we’re proud to highlight Redwood SEED Scholars who are student employees at the UC Davis Library: Kai Gardizi and Karis Chun.

The UC Davis Redwood SEED (Supported Education to Elevate Diversity) Scholars Program is a four-year residential program for students with intellectual disabilities — the first of its kind in California. Students develop life skills, social networks and independence while living in residence halls, participating in student organizations and taking classes.

Scholars also work on campus in an area of interest, an equally vital component of the program.

“Currently, the nation is experiencing the lowest unemployment rate in decades (below 4%), and yet the population of adults with intellectual disabilities is still sitting at an 85% unemployment rate,” says Redwood SEED Scholars Program Co-Director Beth Foraker. “The employment opportunities provided to the Redwood SEED Scholars on campus, like those at Shields Library, are a real chance to break that cycle of unemployment, poverty and social isolation for these worthy and talented individuals.”

Meet Kai

Kai Gardizi is a third-year Redwood SEED Scholar from Danville, California with a passion for music. When he’s not volunteering as a DJ at the KDVS radio station or taking music classes, Kai works at Shields Library on our Interlibrary Loan team and the Stacks Maintenance team  (“Stacks” are the main book shelves located throughout the library).

Day-to-day, Kai’s responsibilities include unpacking books that have been shipped on loan from other UC libraries and libraries around the world, sorting through books, and doing “paging” (retrieving items from Shields’ extensive collection). 

There’s always new stuff to do around here — it never gets old. And even with the routine stuff, you know what to do.”

— Kai Gardizi, Redwood SEED Scholar and UC Davis Library student employee

Each Scholar is paired with a student mentor at the library, and Kai works closely with his mentor, Kaitlyn Blair, a fourth-year psychology major. Kaitlyn was inspired to participate after listening to Program Co-Director Beth Foraker, who visited one of her classes to speak about Redwood Seed Scholars and mentor opportunities.

“I like walking around doing pages with Kai,” says Kaitlyn. “There’s just so much [in the library] that I didn’t know about!”

The pair have a close dynamic, and often crack jokes with each other. Though they started as a mentor and mentee, they quickly grew to be friends, filling their shifts together with lighthearted conversations and inside jokes.  

“What I love about working with Kaitlyn is that [she’s] easy to joke around with,” says Kai.  “Every time we sit at the table in the interlibrary loan room, I lower her chair so she looks smaller than me!”

After completing the Redwood SEED Scholars program, Kai plans to keep working at the library and at KDVS.

Checking in with Karis

Karis started working in Shields Library in 2022, and is completing her second year as a member of the Interlibrary Loan team. Like Kai, Karis opens items shipped on loan from other libraries. The Redlands, California native also collects materials to send out to libraries on loan, as well as to students here on campus. 

 “You always learn new things,” says Karis. “You never really get bored working here.”

With over a year of hands-on experience, Karis is now gaining valuable leadership and mentorship skills as a part-time mentor to new Scholars working at the library. She emphasizes the importance of productivity and patience, because “there is always a lot going on.”

After completing the Redwood SEED Scholars Program, Karis plans to continue her professional career at a vet clinic on campus, where she also works. She adds that she’d always love to come back to the library.

Author Maya Lee is a social media student assistant on the UC Davis Library’s communications and marketing team.

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