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.”