Thursday, October 20, 2011

This is what I do...

I love how in college, people say, "I am a..." and then state their major. I didn't think my major was going to be who I was, until I found it. Now I am proud to say, I am a Leisure, Youth and Human Services major with and emphasis in Therapeutic Recreation.

Stumbling upon Leisure, Youth, and Human Services and Therapeutic Recreation has been the greatest discovery at this point in my life. Within minutes into my first lectures, I knew that I had found the field that I was supposed to be in.  For those of you who are unaware of what LYHS: TR is, let me explain. Therapeutic Recreation is using any recreation activties, as therapy for people with Special Needs.  

One of the requirements in the TR Foundations class was to spend twelve hours in four different areas of TR. I chose the areas of mental health, intellectual disabilities, behavior disorders, and physical disabilities. My spent my first hours at River Hills School’s adapted physical education class. I met with the teacher about what kinds of activities they do and also about the population they serve (kids with severe profound disabilities both physical and intellectual). I was very intimidated and nervous, because I had never spent any time with anyone with special needs. But, to my surprise upon meeting my first student, I got over every single stigma, fear, stereotype, and judgment that had ever crossed my ignorant mind. I fell in love with the beauty, personality, and pure joy that poured out of this amazing person. I could not imagine my life without the influence of this population anymore.

I continued my education taking the required TR and LYHS classes, and never ceased to be thirsty for more knowledge and experience. The values of the field were instilled in me through difficult and thus character building classes, and I sought out ways to experience them for myself. I did experience those values and ideals time and time again working and volunteering for many organizations, but none like this past summer when I worked for a camp for kids and adults with special needs called, Camp Courageous. Putting your clients’ needs and wants first with a smile on your face despite personal and environmental struggles, became evident with 90+ hour work weeks. Embracing your clients for who they are and empowering them to be all that they can was demonstrated when a 75 year old camper with an intellectual disability flew down an ninety foot zip line.  Taking an individual’s abilities and adapting the environment to fit them instead of the other way around became real when a young man with cerebral palsy climbed to the top of a tree with the use of a sling and belay system.  Experiencing these values among others, as well as meeting and working with the people that I have throughout the past few years have completely changed the way I view the world, my own personal struggles, and has changed my entire perspective on what is important in life. I continue to be inspired by every individual I meet. The basic principles of respect and acceptance drive me to inspire others to see this population for what they truly are, but all to commonly overlooked; deserving people with dreams, passion, and abilities, just like everybody else. 

 It has been my privilege to have had all of these awesome experiences. I strive to never stop learning and empowering all those I come into contact with. One day, I hope to direct a facility as a CTRS, like Camp Courageous, that will allow everyone to experience life to the fullest, in a place that enables them to do the things that other people tell them they will never do; because, at the heart of everything, “we are more alike than we are different.”  

"I know what I'm doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for." Jeremiah 29:11

Hello Blog World! This first post is an explaination about why I'm writing this. I promise in the future, they all won't be this long :)

My time at UNI has been one of the most amazing experiences of my life. Not only have I made some amazing friends, found new passion and purpose, but am also continuing to learn more about myself.  It has been an incredible time that I like to call, “The Journey to Trust”.  As time went on I found myself becoming more and more aware of a growing nudge that was Christ trying to be the center of my life and that the presence of the plan He had for me.

The journey took off full speed sophomore year with learning to trust Him financially (not an easy feat). Because my financial aid covered all but $3000, I had to make rather large payments every month. Through all the stress and the constant fear of not making my payments, I found that I not only always managed to scrape enough money together to pay my tuition bill, I was left with a little extra. I was not making enough money at the time for this to even be possible. During this time I was also questioning my decision to become a P.E. teacher, it just didn't feel right. Half way through this year, I found myself at Student Advising, and talked to an advisor about my love for activity, teaching, and Occupational Therapy, as well as my doubts about my current path. She recommended Therapeutic Recreation, and signed me up for the TR Foundations class, as well as a few introductory LYHS classes. Within minutes of my first lectures, I knew that I had found the field that I was supposed to be in.

At the end of sophomore year, I was closing down the rec center, (where I was very tired of working) and one of our regulars came up to the desk and asked what I was doing with my life. I told him about my new found love of TR and Leisure services and talked about my dream to work in a camp-like setting where I would actively change kids' lives, but be able to be behind the scenes running the show too. His eyes got wide, and his mouth fell open. He then said, "you have got to be kidding me. I have been looking for someone to do that exact job." I knew at that point, that I wasn't going to be planning my own summer. I became Mobile Camp Coordinator, for Quakerdale Youth Services, a Christian at-risk youth serving agency based in East Waterloo. This was a summer job that provided financial relief, accompanied with a taste of the field He wanted me in, and most importantly, a lesson in standing strong in Him and following what He said minute by minute. This last lesson was learned through a crazy situation at our Des Moines location, where God worked directly through our kids and my counselors to show his love and power of HIS will in bringing the ones He loves to Him.

Another big lesson came in my junior year and taking classes that had so many itty bitty details I thought my head was going to fall right off my shoulders it was so full. This year taught me to persevere, that this is what I am supposed to be doing when I didn’t even want to continue. It also led me to the most wonderful place I have found so far, Camp Courageous. This is a year round camp for kids and adults with special needs. The summer spent there led me to even more amazing friends, fantastic learning experiences, a new appreciation for the life I have been given, and the ability to help others experience the life they deserve.

Which brings me to the present, Senior Year of College. Or I guess, senior semester of college. I will be done with my classes in December and have decided to move back to Monticello to work and live at Camp Courageous. I will then come back to UNI in May, graduate and leave to go on my internship, hopefully either at camp, or at another camp in Indiana. 

Sooo yeah, that very long post is the short version of my college experience. The rest of this blog will be about the adventures that I will take on in the very short future. I know that God has is directing my life and I couldn't be happier. I've tried- and sometimes still try- to do it myself, but have found that His ideas are muuuuuch better! The Trust is there, now I just have to learn to fully rely on it.