UF students have many opportunities to serve the community while gaining experience related to each major. Occupational therapy students spent the fall semester learning and strengthening skills through academic service learning (ASL.)
Through ASL, students are encouraged to partake in experiential education by participating in a sort of community service while engaging in tasks related to the curriculum of each major. All OT students in the Professional Relationships in Context course instructed by Theresa Leto, Ph.D., assistant professor of occupational therapy, spent 20 or more hours serving at an agency in the Findlay area.
“Each student chose a service learning site from a list of agencies in the area,” said Loretta Kelbley, junior occupational therapy major. “I chose Briar Hill Health Campus in North Baltimore because I wanted to gain more experience working with the elderly population, their hours were very flexible and they had many activities that I could get involved in.”
After each service session, students were required to write a journal entry to record what they experience that day. “Students bring their experiences to the classroom for discussion,” said Leto.
“The journal asks them to consider specific aspects of their experiences to reflect on them.”
At the end of the project, each student gave a presentation to describe each agency and personal experiences.
“I will admit that at the beginning of the semester, I was not overly excited about having to do a service project,” said Kelbley. “However, it turned out to be a rewarding, yet challenging experience, so much that I am planning to continue volunteering there.”
Campus Compact educates local community partners about different service projects and learning goals needed for ASL students versus student volunteers. Since 2006, UF’s campus compact has assisted with this particular course design by securing all service site placements. Sites include community partners such as non-profit organizations, educational institutions and religious organizations.
“I now realize that developing effective professional communication skills takes practice and I know it is going to help me tremendously,” said Kelbley. “This kind of experience is what continues to solidify my decision to become an occupational therapist and gives me renewed energy to keep working through this long road that we call the OT program.”
Written by Sarah Foltz