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Occupational Therapy Graduate Students Give Back to the Community Through Service Projects

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Students enrolled in the Master of Occupational Therapy (OT) graduate program at Bay Path University have been participating in a variety of community-based service projects this winter. These projects were required assignments for their Development Components of Living I & II classes, but resulted in highly successful fundraising efforts and significant time committed to lending a hand in the community. 

"Service projects have been an assignment for this class for many years," Assistant Professor in the Master of Occupational Therapy graduate program, Jeanne Zobel-Lachiusa said. "However, given the series of tragic events in the past year, the students have been particularly moved to give back to the community." 

Students are asked to work in groups over two semesters, research a need in the community, and provide their time to pediatric-related agencies or organizations. A few of the organizations students supported this year included Cutchins School (Northampton, MA), Jericho Therapeutic Equestrian Center (Holyoke, MA), Richard Salter Storrs Library (Longmeadow, MA), East Longmeadow Public Library, Treehouse Foundation (Easthampton, MA), and Growing Tree Learning Center (Westfield, MA).

Occupational Therapy student Lauren Rosenberg G'18 spoke about her experience raising money for the Ralphola Taylor Community Center (RTCC) YMCA in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Rosenberg shared how this project experience shaped her and the community:

"We chose the RTCC YMCA because we felt inner city children are often underserved.  We wanted to give back to an organization that would truly benefit from our efforts. Their programs aim to improve quality of life and develop the economic self-sufficiency of low-income children and their parents. In order to raise the funds, our group set out to sell Bay Path University OT apparel (yoga pants, sweatpants, and ¾ zip shirts). Another group member and I started out by approaching several local printing businesses to find out if they would be interested in donating their services. Once we had located a business willing to do so, we offered the products to students and faculty two days a week for purchases throughout the month of October."   

Rosenberg and her group raised $525.00 to donate, which provided enough funds for an educational-based field trip for a classroom of 30 students.

"It provided enough for not only an educational-based field trip, but also offered an opportunity to spark new interests in children who live mostly in urban, low-income environments," Rosenberg added. "We strive to provide opportunities which may otherwise not be accessible to certain populations. OTs can work with anyone from birth to death, and by providing funds to the RTCC YMCA we were able to help a program which supports people of all ages." 

Groups of students enrolled in other pediatric courses also took the time to contribute their services to other local organizations in need by providing elementary schools, public libraries, after school programs, and homeless shelters with new programs, activities, and materials for children. Others focused on helping children with behavioral challenges by providing them with “sensory boxes” which included items that would help them better regulate their emotions and behaviors when they often have difficulty expressing themselves.

"The programs, activities, and materials were appreciated and the OT students learned first hand the meaning of community," Zobel-Lachiusa said. "This assignment gave students the opportunity to learn about various local pediatric-related resources, like relief organizations, outside of the typical OT settings. They learned how to provide materials, financial support, and information that will benefit people with challenges. The students were educating themselves about the community while teaching the community what OT can do for them. It is an invaluable experience and opportunity."

The classes raised over $2,100 through organized raffles and gathered needed items to send to the Texas Diaper Bank, Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund and St. Jude Children’s Hospital therapy department. Students also asked local businesses to donate items and gift cards to help raise money.

"These students are well on their way towards graduation and will then join a larger community beyond Bay Path, entering the real world," Zobel-Lachiusa said. "This assignment proves that they are ready for the next step in their careers and that kindness, compassion, and caring always go beyond the classroom requirement."