Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences Offers Career Paths for Holyoke Youth
SLHS groups attended a pair of community events aimed at introducing youth to careers in the field.
This summer, members of the speech, language, and hearing sciences department participated in a speaker series event called "You Can Be Anything You Want to Be" aimed at providing positive work role models from a wide variety of professions to speak to youth about their career choices. The series, organized by Karen Legace, Project Safe Childhood Program Specialist in the United States Attorney’s Office, is held in partnership with the Holyoke Safe Neighborhood Initiative Youth Basketball League to bring anti-gang programming for youth in grades 3-6.
On July 14, doctoral students Ada López González (speech-language pathology) and Miriam Munoz (audiology), along with audiology clinical educator and senior lecturer Tomma Henckel, presented an interactive activity designed to inform youth participants about their professions. Using props and other hands-on materials that youth could explore, they discussed such topics as how people communicate, how they support people that communicate differently, what causes hearing loss, and how they support people with hearing loss.
"Youth career and character development initiatives have the capacity toward preventing the downward spiral of poverty," says Henckel, noting that the basketball league in and of itself is also a way to keep at-risk youth away from street gangs, drugs and crime.
The department’s participation in the summer speaker event builds on similar career outreach activities they conducted throughout the past year. Earlier in the spring, Assistant Professor Megan Gross helped to organize the department’s participation in a career exploration day held at the Kelly School, an elementary school in Holyoke.
“The Kelly School event was inspired by the basketball league speaker series, which has been around longer,” notes Gross. “One of its key organizers is Nayroby Rosa Soriano, director of community engagement at OneHolyokeCDC, with whom my lab has been collaborating for the past 3 years. The goal of these events is to help children even as young as PreK see their own strengths that they can bring to a career in our fields, especially as many of them come from Spanish-speaking homes and have bilingual skills.”
Gross and Henckel recruited a team of speech-language pathology students (Ada López González and Julia Verde) and audiology students (Haley Belanger, Caitlin Couture, Sofia Macias, and Kim Moïse) to present more about their fields in an interactive format that would engage the children.
"The Kelly Elementary School event was an excellent opportunity to share with children our amazing work as audiologists and speech-language pathologists," says López González, a bilingual speech-language pathologist in the PhD program. "We integrated various activities to show children our work in a dynamic and fun way. The audiology graduate students demonstrated how to use amplifier devices, showing kids how people listen with hearing aids and explaining the ear's anatomy in a simple description. Graduate students from the SLP track brought materials such as toys and crafts to demonstrate how we integrate play when teaching language to children with communication challenges. It is always a great experience to show the community our profession and encourage them to become part of the speech, language, and hearing sciences world."
"I really enjoyed seeing the preschool and kindergarten-aged children show an interest in wanting to become 'ear doctors' through the demonstrations of products like pocket talkers!" adds Moïse. "It was fun and encouraging to see such young minds exposed to a necessary but often overlooked field."
Henckel notes the importance of their summer and spring outreach activities. She says, "Talking to elementary and high school students about our careers in the speech, language and hearing sciences and exposing them to the importance of our work in helping with communication is not only a wonderful way to teach about the variety of methods we can help people and the community, but also a great avenue to expose children to these professions early in the hopes of recruiting a more diverse population to our fields of study and professional opportunities."