MATRIX Spotlight: John and Aspen
Hi, I’m John! Or, as some of you may know me, “The guy with the dog.” I’m a rising junior and honors student at the University of Georgia studying Management Information Systems (MIS) and International Business. This is my fifth summer interning at MATRIX; however, it is a little different from the past four because now my service dog, Aspen, tags along with me every day. Aspen is an 11-month-old black lab in training to be a guide dog through the Guide Dog Foundation.
I started working for MATRIX the summer after my sophomore year in high school. I spent two summers in the IT department with an amazing team and manager that constantly encouraged and fostered my passion for technology. From there, I spent an additional two summers in the Professional Services department working in software development. There, I grew my technical knowledge that set the foundation for many of the core MIS principles I have learned in college. This summer, I am working on the Strategic Technology team and will be utilizing many of the skills I have learned so far in the MIS program at UGA.
For Aspen, this is her first and last summer with MATRIX. She will be leaving by the end of the year to return to the foundation’s headquarters in Smithtown, NY. During the year and a half that I have Aspen, our focus is on obedience commands and socialization to the world. After she returns, she will work with a certified mobility instructor who will teach her more advanced guide dog training. Then, Aspen will be matched with a handler at no cost and help improve his/her quality of life.
Because Aspen is in training to be a guide dog, she is given full public access under the Americans with Disabilities Act. This allows her to come to class with me, ride buses, go into restaurants, walk through stores, and attend sporting events. Aspen’s Instagram is full of pictures showing all the cool places we have gone!
Athens and the University of Georgia are where you can find the most guide dogs in training for the foundation in the country. With approximately 100 dogs training around campus, the distinctive yellow vests have become a staple of UGA’s campus. Throughout the month, you can see our groups meeting around campus and the city to go over training tips and techniques. The picture below shows one of our meetings this semester at the fire station. This helped get the dogs used to sirens, big trucks, and loud equipment.
This summer at MATRIX, Aspen is getting valuable workplace experience. She is practicing staying calm/sleeping while I am at my desk, settling quickly underneath my chair in meetings, and getting used to office life. Everyone at MATRIX has been extremely welcoming of Aspen, and she has become an office celebrity. Stay tuned on her Instagram to see our summer adventures!