by Robin L. Flanigan
A special partnership between the School of Health and Human Services and Rochester’s refugee outreach center Mary’s Place offers authentic, interprofes- sional experience for undergraduate and graduate students—and a way for children who have arrived as refugees to find inspi- ration and hope in a new land.
Mary’s Place serves some of the roughly 500 to 600 refugees who are resettled in the area each year. Nazareth students have been instrumental in the center’s formation and growth, according to Director Kathy LaBue. They created an after-school language enrichment program on Wednesdays and a six-week summer program, and they use the center for on-site classes and as a practicum site in a variety of disciplines.
“All programs are designed and executed by undergraduate and graduate clinicians from communication sciences and disorders, who collaborate with volunteers, administrators, interns from area colleges, and other students from Nazareth to create this innovative program,” says Susan Kwiatkowski ’88G, M.S., CCC-SLP, clinical associate professor of speech-language pathology “This outreach fulfills needed clinical requirements while serving a need in the community. For both our students and those who attend Mary’s Place, it serves to educate the whole person and provides significant learning outside the classroom.”
“I’m not going there to say, ‘This is right, this is wrong, and I’m going to fix you,’” explains Catherine Beers ’14G, a graduate student in speech pathology from Peekskill, N.Y. “It’s more, ‘How can we work together?’ When you’re living in your own bubble, you’re not necessarily thinking about cultural competency. Mary’s Place is all about gaining perspective.”
(L to R) Jennifer Auchu-Ricotta '14G, Chelsea Sommer '14, and Kathryn Cooper '13G assist young refugees with a project at Mary's Place Outreach.
Art therapy and social work graduate students have now become part of the team and collaborate with CSD grads to plan weekly themes that address goals from all the disciplines. Earlier this spring, the SHHS hosted a career fair, in which each department made presentations to the children who attend Mary’s Place and who often have limited knowledge about potential job opportunities.
For Beers, recognizing that many refugees need help with a language difference—not a language disorder—has been eye-opening. She has learned to frame her work around exposure and enrichment, rather than focusing on impairment. “I haven’t been through another practicum where I’ve had so many real-life, tangible experiences,” she says. “Just having this awareness absolutely will inform all aspects of my practice. That’s the beauty of it.”
- For more information, visit naz.edu/hhs.
Robin L. Flanigan is a freelance writer in Rochester, New York.