Teacher, Students Pleased With Experience
Sandhills Community College students Jodi Harrell and Christopher Melvin opted to spend 160 hours out of their lives at St. Joseph of the Pines Health Center to learn about the heartbeat that drives one particular department. They got more than they bargained for.
"Our students are required to serve two semesters each of 160 volunteer co-operative learning experience hours," says Patricia Harris, instructor of Human Services Education at the college. "That is a lot of volunteer time in the life of a busy community college student who possibly has a family, a regular classroom coursload and a full-time job."
Age, family status and future career aspirations reveal their differences. But Harrell and Melvin have a proclivity to learn and understand what social workers need to do to perform their job effectively -- enabling all the pieces in the skilled nursing care facility to operate in close accord for the welfare of its residents.
"Having the chance to shadow a professional in one's field gives a student a chance to see what real-life helping is like. Our students continually tell us that their co-op internship was one of the most eye-opening parts of their educational experience," says Harris. "Both Jodie and Chris are telling me how positive their co-op environment is. They feel welcomed, and their heads are swimming at the variety of tasks a social worker at St. Joseph's performs daily."
In the classroom, Harris teaches her students the necessary skills, but it is at their co-op sites that they learn how to apply these skills, she explains. "For example, they learn about intake and assessment of a client, but at their co-op site they actually experience a client being assessed for services. They take a course on gerontology, and at this co-op site they are witnessing first hand the rewards of working with older adults."
Christopher Melvin, 29, became a displaced pharmaceutical plant worker when his employer closed its doors. He sought advice from his pastor who led him in the direction of social work.He is now in his second year of studies and plans eventually to acquire a bachelor's degree in social work.
"I always liked helping and working with people," says Melvin. "My goal is to work with the younger community, but I wouldn't rule out working with the older population."
He says he enjoys the "communication he's developed with St. Joseph social workers and looks forward to the continued contact he has with residents at the Health Center. He's confident all of his expectations are being met and thanks Price and Esteves for "taking time out of what they're doing to talk to him and explain things."
"When co-op site supervisors welcome our students they make them feel that professional life is not out of reach," says Harris. "Our students are fortunate enough to be included in staff meetings, consultation sessions with other professionals, and direct assistance to clients."
Jodi Harrell, mother of three, was thrust into a career change when she least expected it. Before deciding on a career in the humanities, Harrell worked for Burlington Industries as a weaver and was laid off. She enrolled in Sandhills Community College for medical technology but took a psychology class that ultimately defined what her future coursework and goals would be.
She says she feels very welcomed at St. Joseph of the Pines and appreciates the "rewards of being able to communicate with the patients and residents." Price and Esteves taught her how to do "quality of life" interviews.
"We can learn the patients' likes and dislikes so we can make their stay here more homelike," Harrell says. She will graduate in May with an associate degree in human services and will pursue her bachelor's degree.
John Capasso, St. Joseph of the Pines President and CEO, commends the college for "entrusting its students to us for an integral part of their education."
He compliments Price and Esteves for "taking the time to train and mentor these students." He says, "The collective educational efforts between the college and St. Joseph of the Pines are a very worthwhile endeavor. I look forward to additional mutual support on the part of these two organizations."
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