What issues drive your interest in early childhood and family studies?
Drawn to the program's focus on early child development and learning, I pursued the ECFS major to strengthen my child development knowledge as well as learn how to advocate for optimal early learning experiences for children and their families. As childhood continues to be undervalued and rushed given today's fast-paced society, I believe it is incredibly important to speak up on behalf of children and their right to be children Ð meaning their right to explore, discover and play!
Where did you complete your senior year service learning?
Interested in pursuing the child life profession, I completed my senior year service learning at Seattle Children's Hospital – a self-placement site where I had an established connection to the hospital as a volunteer. Assigned to the in-patient playroom, I provided play opportunities at bedside and in the playroom for patients/families. For my capstone project, I developed a brochure with strategies to help long-term patients stay connected to their schools.
What was your most memorable service learning experience?
Among the many meaningful experiences I gained from Seattle ChildrenÕs, my favorite interaction involved a 7-year-old boy whose incredible resiliency solidified my passion for the child life field. With little information known about the patient, I walked into my assigned room and unexpectedly met a young boy with a metal contraption around his head. Unfamiliar with medical halo braces, I was stunned at the sight of metal gadgets and nails in his skull. Can he play today? Expecting to interact with a nonresponsive, melancholy child that Friday morning, I actually had the joy of fighting off evil bubbles with this budding Ninja Turtle.
Despite the rigid constraints of his halo, feeding tube, and inability to verbally communicate, the patient did not allow his hospitalization to hinder his infectious charisma nor his ability to be a kid. In a room bursting with superhero-themed balloons and tilting stacks of board games, the patient repeatedly beat me to the finish line in Candy Land before the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles inspired him to partake in the fight against evil. Turning on his bubble machine, the patient and I animatedly slashed at the bubbles taking over his room. By the end of my shift, I had entirely forgotten about the patient's intimidating medical constraints and instead saw a little boy making the best of a traumatic experience.
What skills did you gain that benefitted your future career?
Through my coursework and service learning experiences, I gained a strong knowledge base in child development, early learning and family studies – a foundation crucial to working with children and their families. I also strengthened my interpersonal and communication skills, which have proven to be incredibly beneficial to my everyday interactions with patients and their parents.
What have you done since graduating?
Since graduating with my ECFS major, I earned my master's in child life and family-centered care from Wheelock College in 2014 and currently work as a Certified Child Life Specialist (CCLS) in Boston. In my role as a CCLS, I help children and their families cope with hospitalization through play, preparation and teaching.
Do you have any tips or advice to offer students - things you wish you had known or really benefited from?
Make the most of your service learning experience by getting involved with your site beyond your weekly responsibilities Ð consider taking on new projects for the school and networking with other professionals. Your service learning experience is the first building block to your future career with children and families so make it worthwhile!