Nearly a dozen student-athletes drawn to human service field in College of Education
A common thread among majors in the College of Education is the desire to make a difference in someone else’s life, and that rings especially true for students in the college’s Rehabilitation and Human Services (RHS) program.That thought process seems to strike a chord with student-athletes as well, since the RHS major has attracted 11 of the 28 athletes who as of December were enrolled in various education majors.
“I think that athletes are drawn to this major because it’s a major that prepares you to work in the human service field and in sports you have to learn to work well in a group,’’ said Penn State field hockey player Carly Celkos, a junior from Berlin, New Jersey.
“To work in the field you also need leadership skills, which many athletes have. I know for myself these skills have helped me succeed in my studies so far.’’
Jim Herbert, the RHS professor-in-charge, doesn’t believe there is a “typical” RHS person and that there is a wide net of persons who make good rehabilitation and human services personnel. “My impressions of Penn State student-athletes is that they are not afraid of hard work and often have schedules that are far more demanding than what most other people realize,’’ Herbert said.
RHS professionals work with a variety of people across the lifespan who experience problems in the psychosocial, physical, mental, educational, vocational and recreational aspects of their lives. They can work with people who have mental, cognitive, developmental, addiction, sensory and/or physical disabilities and chronic illness as well as people experiencing violence, living in poverty or who are homeless.
“Often, people with disabilities are those who get the short end of the stick in our society,’’ Herbert said. “They usually include people with challenges, some of which are imposed by the functional limitations that the disability presents – people who are blind, deaf or use wheelchairs – but, more often than not, the bigger problems are attitudes based on myths, misperceptions and stigma associated with disability imposed by members of our society.’’
Herbert said as a result, people with disabilities often are not seen in the same way when it comes to educational, social and vocational opportunities afforded without question to people without disabilities. “It has often been said that the biggest barrier that people with disabilities are faced with has to do with attitudinal barriers of people without disabilities,’’ Herbert said.
“So, another important component to being a good RHS professional is someone with compassion about the human condition and willing to advocate for others who, in some instances, cannot advocate for themselves, and willing to meet challenges head-on. I think student-athletes have a great deal of personal experience overcoming challenges and perhaps, in some way, this major certainly lends itself to helping others overcoming their challenges as well.”
All-American wrestler Jordan Conaway, a senior from New Oxford, Pennsylvania, said the major fits anyone who is looking to serve people hands-on.
“If you’re cooking for them … they might not be able to cook for themselves. They need you to be there,’’ Conaway said. “You’re cleaning the house or whatever, you’re really involved helping them, serving people. Anyone who wants to help people in that way, it draws people to it.’’
Conaway worked an internship during his fall 2015 semester at Strawberry Fields, a United Way agency in State College committed to enhancing the quality of life and promoting the individual growth of the people it serves regardless of background and ability.“It’s been a good experience with my internship hands-on with people and serving consumers,’’ Conaway said in December. “Definitely the hands-on and how involved it is with helping someone.”
“I’m working at an assisted-living house, helping to take care of two individuals. They have intellectual disabilities, mental illnesses. I’m cooking for them or whatever they need. If they need to go somewhere, you drive for them … things like that.’’
Celkos, who wants to become an occupational therapist and hopes to intern with an occupational therapist – specifically in geriatrics – during her senior year, has mentored students at LifeLink as part of one of her RHS classes. “It was a really fun experience, I loved working with the students and they really brightened my day,’’ she said.
Conaway’s semester was the internship; it was 40 hours of work for college credit instead of 15 or 18 hours of weekly for-credit classwork. That can conflict with wrestling room practice time; he said at times he would have to leave the internship during the day and return at night after practice. Administrators on both ends do what they can to accommodate that.
“There have been a number of situations where we have tried to accommodate student-athlete scheduling demands in perhaps the same philosophy that we make reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities,’’ Herbert said. “I think students know that the RHS faculty are people who are truly invested in their academic and professional development and, as one of my former student-athletes mentioned, ‘You guys are willing to go the extra mile.’’’
The balancing act between spending the necessary time on academics and the commitment of being a Division I college athlete is far from easy.
“And the professors in RHS have stood out to me most during my time in the College of Education. My RHS professors have been my favorite professors at Penn State so far. They are so friendly and helpful and really passionate about what they do.’' -- Carly Celkos
“Time management and organization I would say are the two main things that help me balance school and field hockey,’’ Celkos said. “Without my agenda I would be lost. It really helps me to keep on top of my assignments and meetings.’’
Herbert said the combination of the RHS service mission to those with disabilities and the College of Education’s teaching mission helps shape the major.
“All of our faculty teach and advise in the undergraduate program and we make every effort to be accessible to help students with academic, career and related personal concerns in order to prepare them for a career serving people with disabilities,’’ he said.
“I also think the fact that we require all students to complete a full-time semester internship is attractive as it better prepares them for the work world and provides important career experience should they want to pursue graduate training in one of the counseling fields (career, mental health, school or rehabilitation), social work, occupational-physical therapy or other helping professions,’’ Herbert said.
Celkos said she was attracted to the major because of the different career options in the human service field. “I knew this was the perfect major for me because I wasn’t completely sure of what I wanted to do, but knew I wanted to work in the human service field,’’ she said.
“And the professors in RHS have stood out to me most during my time in the College of Education. My RHS professors have been my favorite professors at Penn State so far. They are so friendly and helpful and really passionate about what they do.’'
LIST OF PENN STATE ATHLETES IN THE COLLEGE OF EDUCATION AS OF DECEMBER
Jenna Bickel/women’s swimming/CEAED (PK-4)
Megan Callaghan/women’s lacrosse/RHS
Carly Celkos/field hockey/RHS
Haleigh Echard/women’s soccer/ED
Carolyn Fittin/women’s swimming/SPLED
Katherine Gosser/women’s fencing/CEAED (PK-4)
Megan Hellman/women’s track and field/ED
Kaitlin Jones/women’s swimming/RHS
Emily Klingler/field hockey/ED
Taylor Krause/women’s volleyball/CEAED (PK-4)
Stephanie Lazo/women’s lacrosse/RHS
Clarisse Luminet/women’s fencing/EDTHP (graduate school)
Angelo Mangiro/football/C&I (graduate school)
Megan McCloskey/women’s track and field/ED
India McCoy/women’s track and field/RHS
Meike Meilleur/women’s ice hockey/ED
Kaliyah Mitchell/women’s basketball/CEAED (PK-4)
Matthew Nawrocki/men’s track and field/ED
Jessica O’Neill-Lyublinsky/women’s fencing/RHS
Megan Osborne/women’s track and field/RHS
Allie Pennetti/women’s swimming/RHS
Kevin Reihner/football/EDLDR (graduate school)
Tichina Rhodes/women’s track and field/RHS
Megan Schafer/women's soccer/ED
Jim Carlson (February 2016)