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School of Health Sciences Students Help Clinton County Teens

Kirby A. Chaapel, left, works with participants in the kitchens of Central Mountain High School. Chaapel taught a group of teens food-service skills, and the group produced lunch each day for program participants.While earning credit toward their degrees, two Pennsylvania College of Technology students recently helped Clinton County teens prepare for the world of work.

The students, who are pursuing dual occupational therapy assistant associate’s degrees and applied health studies bachelor’s degrees, initiated an independent study with the Youth Quality Employment and Student Training (Youth QuEST) program.

Cynthia R. Babb, Fredericksburg; and Kirby A. Chaapel, RR1 Canton, supervised students on various work sites during the six-week program, which is designed for school-aged youths who may encounter barriers to employment.

The 25 participants, all entering 11th or 12th grade this fall, were referred for Youth QuEST by the Keystone Central School District. They worked from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Thursday, with one day spent in the classroom and the other program days spent in the community on job sites and in other activities.

Classroom topics included the qualities of a good worker, career exploration, job searching, resume building, interview preparation, problem solving and leadership. Work sites included Hanna Park, Piper/Harmon Playground, Hoberman Playground, Hammermill Park and Zindle Park, where the youths performed landscaping and building projects; and the Central Mountain High School kitchens, where a team learned food-service skills and prepared lunch for the program for four weeks. There were 18 work sites in all.

Each of the participants was also asked to volunteer on at least two Fridays during the six-week program. The Salvation Army was among the volunteer sites.

Babb and Chaapel, both entering their sophomore year at Penn College, were tasked with leading the participants on work sites.

Babb said the experience has helped to focus her post-graduation goals.

“I knew in the beginning that I wanted to work with kids once I got out of college, but I think this program helped me decide that I want to work with kids that have the sort of problems that they had in this program. I want to work with kids in the psychology aspect…. I don’t think that any class could really compare to what I learned this summer,” she explained.

Barbara J. Natell, director of the occupational therapy assistant program at Penn College, said both students were given roles that helped them develop as leaders, as students and as therapists.

“I never realized I could learn so much in one summer,” Babb said. “I definitely learned to have more patience and understanding. I think this was a very eye-opening summer. I’ve always lived in my own little box and had everything that I always wanted, but seeing these kids… showed me that there is a whole other world out there that I still need to see.”

While the profession is most often associated with physical needs, occupational therapists work with anyone who has a dysfunction − physical, social or neurological − that could hinder their performance of work or daily-life tasks.

Youth QuEST is a collaborative effort among the state Office of Vocational Rehabilitation, STEP Inc., Lock Haven CareerLink and Geisinger Health System’s Living Unlimited program.

For more information about the academic programs offered by the School of Health Sciences, call (570) 327-4519, send e-mailor visit online .