York College Recreation student helping local veterans through field work program
Lauren Mitchell wants a career that gives her the chance to help others in a hands-on fashion.
As a Recreation and Leisure Administration major at York College of Pennsylvania, she’s building the necessary skillsets to make that goal a reality, both inside and outside the classroom.
Before she graduates this spring, Lauren’s spending 40 hours per week at the Coatesville Veterans Affairs Medical Center. It’s part of the curriculum’s required field experience, and it’s just one of the ways the college sets up grads to have a competitive edge when they hit the job market.
“YCP has given me a lot of opportunities to be a success in my career and as a student,” Lauren says.
From shadowing and being mentored by an on-site supervisor to doing the job with close supervision, Lauren’s getting the chance to apply key concepts learned in the classroom.
Her VA supervisor has helped her understand the type of programs that are best for each individual and his or her diagnosis.
For example, Lauren has learned that most veterans who need short-term rehabilitation can perform a lot of the same cognitive activities she plans. Alternatively, the veterans who require more long-term care, such as those suffering from schizophrenia or dementia, require more personal attention.
“I implement a variety of programs throughout day,” she says. “For those who are unable to make it to the community room, I go to their rooms and meet with them individually, talk to them, bring in games or do an activity they enjoy one on one.”
As she progresses through the semester, Lauren will receive an increasing amount of independence and the responsibility of producing programs for these veterans.
At the end of the semester, her final report for the Recreation and Leisure Administration major will recap what she learned and how it will impact her after graduation.
When it comes to students’ field experience, the goal is to help them be mentored by a professional and learn the responsibility of a recreational therapist within that context, says Dr. Brian K. Malcarne, Ph.D., CTRS, assistant professor of Recreation and Leisure Administration and Recreational Therapy at YCP.
“VAs are a really neat opportunity because of the clientele you are working with,” Dr. Malcarne says.
Unlike other programs that offer one service, students in VAs encounter veterans whose need include physical, social and mental health rehabilitation.
Pairing knowledge with exposure
Whether they experience a VA or other field experience, Recreation and Leisure Administration students leave YCP prepared to follow a variety of career paths, especially since they have two different required field experiences during their time at YCP.
Having spent time in the real world during these two field experiences, applying concepts and lessons learned in the classroom, these students have a leg up on graduates from other schools who only have one field experience.
“We try to prepare students with not just the knowledge,” says Dr. Malcarne, “but also the skills and exposure to the field to understand where they want to specialize and how they can develop the skills to be successful.”