At the Wediko Summer Program, six William Smith students and recent graduates earned a combined total of 4,500 clinical hours as they worked at the AmeriCorps placement site with more than 100 youth, ages nine to 19, to build self-esteem and discover their strengths.
Cassidy Smith ’16, Emma Flynt ’18, Julianne Peebles ’19, Sarah Banta ’19, Elizabeth Hawes ’19 and Maryum Raheem ’16 spent the summer at the New Hampshire short-term residential treatment program, which serves children with social, emotional and behavioral challenges. They each earned up to 750 clinical hours from Wediko. Additionally, HWS matched the AmeriCorps stipend offered to students through the program.
“Wediko provides a unique experience to develop and directly apply clinical skills before obtaining a bachelor’s degree,” explains Smith, who returned to the program for the third summer, now as Lead Staff overseeing other staffers.
A psychology major with a minor in public policy and concentration in healthcare, Smith says that for the youth in the program, Wediko offers “the opportunity to develop friendships, learn coping skills and feel important – rather than feeling like the ‘problem child.'”
Building on her experience with the program and its parent organization, Wediko Children’s Services, Smith recently accepted a position with Youth Villages, a Boston nonprofit, where she is working in a residential treatment facility for teenage girls.
Flynt served as a teacher in the Wediko summer school, working with participants of all ages, which challenged her to make the same material interesting and relatable to various age groups. “But at the end of each week it’s amazing to see their personal progress and how much fun they have had with some of our projects,” she says.
A member of the Koshare Dance Collective and the HWS chapter of Project Eye to Eye, Flynt plans to pursue further teaching experience “as well as add to and fine-tune my ability to work with diverse groups of students,” she explains.
Peebles, who is enrolled in the HWS Teacher Education Program with a concentration in elementary and special education, served as part of Wediko’s dance activity staff, leading classes and cabin group and working one-on-one with students.
“Children with social, emotional and behavioral challenges are often pushed out of programs as a result of not conforming to expectations, but at Wediko, it’s really important to pull them into the program,” she explains, adding that the experience has given her “a better awareness of where I want to go in terms of my career path.”
Banta and Hawes – both members of the HWS chapter of To Write Love on Her Arms, a non-profit focused on de-stigmatizing mental illness – had opportunities to see changes firsthand.
Banta, a psychology major who plans to earn special education certification, was drawn to Wediko to “work with children who were struggling with a wide range of issues.” The program, she explains, “caters to the needs of a lot of kids by creating a safe and structured environment that allows them to work on their individual goals.”
The lessons from her psychology courses helped her to “understand some of the mental illnesses that kids may be struggling with,” and to notice incremental improvements. “In this job, you focus on the little things,” she says. “Even the smallest change in behavior or a smile from a student is so rewarding.”
Hawes, who discovered the internship opportunity through the Salisbury Center for Career, Professional and Experiential Education, explains that HWS “really intrigued me in trying new things that are out of my comfort zone, and that’s exactly what my summer at Wediko was.”
A member of the William Smith varsity cross-country team and soon-to-be psychology major, she worked with a group of nine pre-teen boys, learning how “to assess and analyze a situation and act on your instincts, how to be patient in times of crisis, and how to build strong and meaningful relationships with kids who have been through so much.”
Raheem helped the youth build self-esteem and validate their self-worth. As a William Smith student, Raheem was a psychology major. She was captain of the Hip~NotiQs Step and Dance Team, participated in the Koshare Dance Collective and volunteered with events to assist youth in Geneva. She spoke to ninth-grade students from Geneva City School District when they visited campus and volunteered at the district’s Festival of National celebration.