“When you google ‘dietitian with cerebral palsy’ nothing super relevant pops up,” dietetics student Jon Dotter says. “I want to be that person.”
Jon’s goal to provide nutrition knowledge to individuals with cerebral palsy, like himself, led him to Oregon State University, where at 32 years old he is pursuing a dietetics degree.
Discovering dietetics at Oregon State
Jon says after his parents’ divorce and a move to Oregon, he dropped out of high school and got his GED at 15.
He briefly attended Chemeketa Community College with hopes of becoming a forensic analyst or working for the FBI. “I made a bunch of phone calls, and once they heard cerebral palsy they said, ‘Yeah, you can’t do this’ and just shut the door on me.”
“I spent a decade in a very deep depression,” Jon says. “For a lot of time, I just didn’t do anything with my life.”
Seeing his dad struggle with type 2 diabetes, drugs and alcohol helped motivate him to change his lifestyle. “I saw my projected self in him, and I didn’t want that.”
Jon says he became more active and began eating a more balanced diet. “I found power within food and overall well-being, and that drew me to nutrition.”
Jon’s growing interest in fitness and nutrition led his mental health counselor to suggest studying nutrition.
Oregon State’s dietetics degree program was the perfect fit — it offers a top dietetics program close to where he lives and is located near the mountains and an hour from the beach. “I’m a really outdoorsy type. It was an easy decision for me because I don’t like living in large cities.”
Looking back, he’s at peace with the past and how far he’s now come. “I wouldn’t be at Oregon State without going through all those trials and tribulations.”
Providing nutrition information for people with cerebral palsy
Jon plans to complete his dietetics degree and then explore ways he can serve people with cerebral palsy.
“I know I want to work with people with cerebral palsy who have limited resources, as I once did, to help them eat healthier and try to get physical activity,” Jon says. “I’m looking into including adapted physical activity and a training certificate with my degree.”
He says he’d like to work in a clinic to gain experience and then offer free nutrition outreach.
“I want to provide nutrition information for free because people with cerebral palsy need nutrition help the same way they need occupational therapy and physical therapy,” Jon says. “It’s a passion of mine, and I know what it is like.”
“That’s what interests me the most — being able to help people I relate to and to be a voice for this population. I’d like to pay it forward.”
Speaking up for the Oregon State community
Jon is already making an impact in people’s lives at Oregon State.
As a tutor and evening study hall facilitator with Academics for Student Athletes, he enjoys helping student athletes navigate course content and develop study skills. This summer Jon was a teacher’s assistant during the BEST summer bridge program, an immersion program designed to help new student athletes adapt to the college environment by learning to balance academics and sports.
He’s also on the Disability Access Services board with Dixon Recreation Center, where he offers advice on how they can improve accommodations and outreach for people with disabilities.
With the Dietetics and Nutrition Club, Jon helps lead grocery store tours for the Corvallis community.