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After switching majors, students find new home in York College’s Recreation Administration program

December 05, 2017
Abigail-Haubenstein-ycp
Abigail Haubenstein's passion for helping people led to to switch majors from Biology to Recreation and Leisure Administration, with a focus on Therapeutic Recreation.

Michelle Anderton, Cole Fenton and Abigail Haubenstein arrived at York College of Pennsylvania to pursue three different careers yet each found a home in the same place: studying Recreation and Leisure Administration.

Driven by a desire to help people, all three students switched into the Recreation program. It’s been a natural fit, considering the major prepares students to improve lives through recreation.

The major offers students a close-knit community, hands-on experience and the opportunity to pursue a broad array of fulfilling careers.

“Now that I’m in the major, I tell everyone I know how amazing it is,” Abigail says.

A way to help people

Abigail thought she was on her way to medical school. After transferring to York College from community college, she chose Biology as her major.

But, as she continued down the path, she found the courses strayed further from her interests. Her Biology adviser knew she was passionate about helping people and suggested she explore Recreation. 

A junior now, Abigail switched majors at the beginning of the school year. She’s focusing on Therapeutic Recreation, which uses activities to improve the quality of life for people with physical, developmental or behavioral disabilities.

Abigail’s goal is to apply Therapeutic Recreation in a clinical setting, like a hospital or physical rehabilitation facility. She’s already shadowed a Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist (CTRS) at a local hospital.

Once a week, her recreational programming class heads to the Broadmore Senior Living facility to work with residents. Students plan activities, like games and holiday parties.  These activities are specially planned to meet the physical, social, and emotional needs of the residents.  They encourage independence, social connectedness, and feelings of competence.

Each week, the residents hug the students and tell them how appreciative they are. Those moments make it worthwhile for Abigail.

“I just can’t even explain how happy that makes me, knowing that I’m doing something that’s bettering their lives,” she says.

A close-knit community

Cole thought he was a math person. He had taken an accounting class in high school, and the work came easily. Yet, early in his freshman year, he just didn’t feel connected to the major.

At the same time, he was drawn to Recreation through his first-year seminar. The program focused on positive outlooks and the pursuit of happiness relating to recreation. A Recreation professor taught the class, and Cole sat in the front row each day.

“I wanted to be somewhere where it’s fun to go to class and everyone’s into it and wants to be there,” Cole says.

That’s exactly what he discovered after switching his major to Recreation. Students in his major have become close-knit, Cole says, connecting during events like Spartapalooza, a campus event planned by the Recreation students.

Cole has also enjoyed the trips to Broadmore and has worked with several summer camps.

He’d eventually like to work with military children after he spent time at camps for kids whose parents are in the service. In one case, he tried to help a young camper relax and laugh but felt like he wasn’t reaching her.

But, a few months later during a Halloween party for the kids, Cole saw her again. This time, she introduced a friend to Cole, explaining he was a funny guy. It was an “awesome” moment, Cole says.

“It warms your heart knowing they did pay attention and they did like you,” he says. “The whole time I thought I wasn’t getting anywhere. In reality, I really was.”

Passion and compassion come together

Michelle came to York College set on helping special education students. She initially enrolled in Education but found a different path after choosing a Recreation class as one of her electives.

“I took the course and fell in love,” Michelle says. “I actually found out that it was a major, not just an elective course.”

So, like Cole and Abigail, she switched.

Michelle enjoys the fact that Therapeutic Recreation can turn activities that people love, like sports, into tools to improve self-esteem and more. Plus, the field is broad, offering opportunities to work everywhere from nursing homes to the V.A. hospitals.

After volunteering at the Pennsylvania Psychiatric Institute, Michelle is exploring an internship focused on behavior management. She’d like to work in the psychiatric field after graduation.

Michelle says if there are other compassionate students still mulling a major, they’d find a good home in Recreation – just like she, Cole and Abigail did.

“If they have something they’re really passionate about and they enjoy helping others,” Michelle says, “this is the field.”

Click here to learn more about the Recreation & Leisure Administration program

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