Suntans and new speech therapy skills

DAWSON, N.D. — Balancing work and play can be hard, especially as a student.

Lucky for two speech language pathology students, they could combine work and play at Elks Camp Grassick.

As Wyniah Mintz of Glendive, Montana and Grace Nemecek of Bismarck approached their last year of their Master of Science in Speech Language Pathology (SLP) degrees, they were eager to gain as much experience in the field as they could. Elks Camp Grassick in Dawson was the perfect opportunity for them to do so.

A summer camp for children and adults with physical and intellectual disabilities, Elks Camp Grassick provides not only a classic summer camp experience — tie dye and all — but also an educational one. The camp offers a variety of therapies to its campers, Mintz and Nemecek covering the speech therapy sessions for all ages.  Above all, though, its mission is to make all campers feel loved.

The Minot State students’ caseloads varied by day to work with their summer class schedule, but on a full day, they each gave eight direct therapy sessions. Having only one client during the school year, this load gave them a glimpse of what their professional careers will be like after they graduate.

“It was like real life,” said Mintz. “When we get into our field, that will be common, but that was eye opening to me as a student with classes. It was really awesome because they had tons of materials, and our supervisor was really helpful.”

While their work was a large part of their time at Elks Camp Grassick, they also participated in plenty of camp activities like hayrides, basketball, talent shows, and singing, and they offered any other support the counselors on staff needed.

“We just wanted to be involved,” continued Nemecek. “It was so fun to wake up and be like, ‘what do I want to do today? Do I want to play basketball? Go to the park with everyone else?’ There was a lot of freedom, but it was also very structured, so it kept us busy.”

Another new experience the pair had was conducting group therapy sessions. At the end of their separate sessions with their own campers, Mintz and Nemecek would meet and play games as a group. These sessions provided their clients with opportunities to work on their speech skills with others as well as practice their social skills.

Spending eight weeks at Elks Camp Grassick, the graduate students left not just with suntans, but a wealth of new skills that have complimented their educations at Minot State.

“It made me more comfortable and more confident in the skills I have, working with different ages, adults versus the seven-year-old who was there, and having that experience in group therapy,” said Nemecek.

“I gained a lot of new skills in different treatment areas, and it made me more comfortable in my abilities too because we did it so much every day,” agreed Mintz. “Before going to camp, I thought I wanted to work with adults. There was an adult camp, so I did get to do that, and I loved it, however now I’m more interested in kids and schools. We took a public school class, and next semester, I’m doing my practicum with Surrey Schools, so I’m really excited for that. Camp opened up that variety, there’s a lot of stuff you can do with SLP, so that really made me see a different view.”

The most impactful experience, though, was getting to know their clients not just in their sessions, but as people outside therapy as well.

“Seeing them at camp helped me get to know clients more individually as a person and not just a client, getting to know where they’re coming from,” said Mintz.

“And just being a positive mentor in their life, because a lot of kids there didn’t have that,” added Nemecek. “Being able to learn, to listen, and to love my clients as individuals, it just kind of came out of nowhere. I didn’t think I’d have those kinds of connections. I met this one camper, she was just starting high school, and we just really connected. At the end of her camp, I gave her my shoes, and that was to remind her that we all have a journey to walk.”

About Minot State University
Minot State University is a public university dedicated to excellence in education, scholarship, and community engagement achieved through rigorous academic experiences, active learning environments, commitment to public service, and a vibrant campus life.

Published: 01/17/23   

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