This third co-op was a combination of website work, preparation for my 4th Spanish co-op, and a lot of reflection on my part. For starters, I had two separate jobs.
One was as an intern with the Black Mental Health Alliance (BMHA) in Baltimore. The BMHA, headed by Jan Desper-Peters, is an organization in pursuit of a more complete understanding of the factors causing detriment to the mental health our African American Communities. Luckily this Co-op I was placed in a class that focused on reflection focused around the concept of place called Sound, Sight, and Phenomenology of Place. Doing work both on and off site for the BMHA, I was able to travel a lot through the city, but the absolute disparity between the wealthiest districts and the poorest are crystal clear. Just a block or two in one direction and you feel as though you have entered an entirely different region. Unfortunately, it is pretty easy to tell these disparities lie across racial lines as well. It reminded me a bit of New York City, but the community in Baltimore understands the position of oppression they have been put into. Fortunately, the work I have done has made it easier for people to find the mental/emotional support that is often stigmatized within black communities.
My second job in DC was more of the same as far as work load, but ZaneNetworks was a bit more corporate. A small business that bridges the gap between healthcare providers and their recipients, ZaneNet is a telemedicine consulting company. The advancements in technology that let us diagnose and be diagnosed by way of internet connection and audio visual technology is nothing short of incredible. With this being my first time in the public health arena and the office world, I had to adjust to it a bit more than I have had to do for my previous jobs. I did research for different states telemedicine plans, created the Winter Employee Newsletter, and got to work alongside a wonderful host of people in an office shared by the DC Chamber of Commerce.
I would describe place as yourself and your perceived reality. There is an importance to the inner world and its impact on your outer environment. Some of my time this quarter has been reflecting on the world around me, and I could only really perceive the world once the mental block of stress and deadlines and family problems and everything else that 2017 has thrown at me faded a bit. The internal environment mirrors the external in ways that we still do not fully comprehend. A book called “Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself” gave me some understanding of the impact our presence has on place, as well as everything else in our lives.
Balancing everything was a bit difficult, but I was able to work off-site for BMHA so I did not have to make the trek out to Baltimore every single week. Part of what got me through a bit of a difficult quarter in my personal life was to work on myself through introspection, meditation, and keeping in contact with a lot of old friends of mine. Luckily enough I was home for Co-op so I got to see plenty of family members through the quarter and on the Holidays.
Photo Credit: Black Mental Health Alliance – https://www.mha.swdesignclient.com/
Buen Dia Family School is a Preschool in the Mission District of San Francisco, California. Buen Dia is special wherein it focuses on the individual creativity and merit of art in early childhood development. (You can read more about their mission here) I am a Teacher’s Assistant and help with day to day duties ranging from story time to nap time. During the day I essentially make sure that each student is enjoying their time as much as possible and learning lessons about life, friendship, and even a bit of history due to the dates of my co-op coinciding with Black History Month. I really do hope that these young kids can remember the silly intern teacher that stayed with them for a few months!
The children at Buen Dia are English speakers or bilingual in both Spanish and English in differing amounts. This gives me a chance to practice my Spanish with them and with my fellow coworkers who are native speakers and bilingual themselves!
The most amazing aspect of Buen Dia to me is the concept of the “Family” School. Parents and relatives are welcome to join in on field trips to the park or Capoeira movement classes. Many of them work within the Mission district or very close by. A few parents put their outside skills to work for the school and come to help repair parts of Buen Dia, build new structures for the kids to play on, or even bring in delicious food from the restaurants they work in for us all to chow on every now and again. Speaking of food, Buen Dia is a vegetarian establishment. Anything prepared in our kitchen and given to children is vegetarian and always healthy. (You can still bring in meat or snack foods, but we don’t let them see us eating anything too bad for your health!) An organic food grocer even has ties to the school and if you give them the code “I am a friend of Buen Dia” some of the proceeds from the sale get donated to the school!
It really feels like a community despite the student’s very young age and I am personally honored to be a part of it. San Francisco itself and the whole Bay Area is simply amazing and I encourage anyone who has not been out here to at least come for a weekend or two. This is my favorite co-op out of the two I have done and it has steered me a little more into the direction of behavioral and/or developmental psychology.
My name is Julien Stainback. I am currently a first-year at Antioch College and have just started my first co-op job at Crotched Mountain Rehabilitation Center in New Hampshire. I am slowly integrating into a new lifestyle here on the mountain, using my experience with transience to adjust quickly and live well here. Throughout my life, I have seen and lived in many places all over the country. With a lot of luck, I have consistently been able to adapt after a period of time, really growing with each experience.
This is what drew me to Antioch for the most part as I knew I could handle a culture that requires a lot of transitioning and moving from place to place. Being a college student works for me as I get the chance to experiment and continue to learn from multiple teachings, perspectives, and lifestyles. With this in mind, I chose to come here to see a point of view that I had never experienced before and work with a demographic that I had always wanted to work with but simply never have.
People with a wide variety of disabilities live and learn here at Crotched Mountain. Assisting them through their days at the school is my primary job, but I also support them as fellow human beings. It is quite the eye-opener to really be working in-depth with kids and adults with similar conditions. Back home in Maryland, this was an entire population of people that I had never even interacted with and it boggles my mind as to how the world treats them. I considered myself to be empathetic, but only now do I realize that I could have been much more understanding of people in general. While working with students, I think back to my days in high school and even some moments at Antioch where I was very introspective, but I did not include other people’s feelings, thoughts, past experiences, and opinions in my thought process. Now it is what I do for a living! I feel that even with only a few days on the job, I have helped people in a genuine and real way. It is quite meaningful.
When thinking about mental illnesses and/or disabilities in general, I think of my family. What would it have been like if a sibling or even one of my parents was in a facility like this? What is it like for the students’ and residents’ families to work through this? It is oftentimes challenging to work with the students, but I have a degree of separation where I eventually am able to leave and clock out for a day. I almost feel undeserving, seeing how hard some of these people are working just to be accepted by outer society or even by themselves. I think that the longer I stay with these people, these real and relatable people, the better I will be able to understand, and the more I can do to help. I want to start here, working and helping to educate, and someday move up to the role of a neuropsychologist or something in that vein of study to more directly support people with disabilities and their families.
I know that if I or any of my other family members were diagnosed with a behavioral or developmental disability that I would want someone who could try and really want to empathize to be working with and supporting us. I think that is something I want to be. I am only 19 and I have a lot to figure out… but I think that helping people in some capacity is necessary to make me feel fulfilled in life. Having a career in this field is not easy, I am sure, but I am starting to really consider putting in the hard work for it.
Photo credit: https://www.nhpr.org
Crotched Mountain is a rehabilitation center, hospital, and school for people with disabilities. The mission is to eventually integrate all clients back into the community. People’s disabilities range from traumatic brain injuries to developmental disorders diagnosed earlier on, and these conditions impact the lives of both the clients here and their families alike. There is one more group who is affected as well. Staff. This is where we come in. The staff at Crotched Mountain come from various backgrounds and disciplines. Teachers, doctors, physical and occupational therapists, nurses, kitchen workers, paraprofessional educators, and more. Despite the differences between the staff, there is a mission for all of us to support the students and patients here while always keeping in mind to treat them with dignity and respect as fellow, competent human beings.
I personally work as a paraprofessional educator, basically working directly with students in the group homes in the morning (preparing students for school, feeding, possibly clothing, and finally walking them to school), and in the school during the day (adhering to schedules, supporting in activities, helping teach, occasionally feeding). There are teachers and other paraprofessional educators to work alongside at all times as there is normally a healthy 1:1 staff to student ratio. Working with these students day by day is challenging but also enjoyable. I have never worked with anyone in such a meaningful way, to the point where I know there will be memories of me and my co-workers with these students forever.
The experience is mostly positive here but there are times that things go awry. Helping anyone is difficult but here that difficulty can be multiplied by possible miscommunication, frustration, or apprehensiveness on both sides: student and staff. This is not a cakewalk of a job. Some students, due to possible conditions, can become upset or frustrated from a demand, a situation, or some type of disruption/bad transition. I have been slapped, kicked, grabbed by my collar, and multiple other small injuries by the students and it is shocking to receive a hit and simply understand that it is not their fault. Working here is a test of patience and growing trust. The longer I have gone, the less incidents I have been a part of as we develop trust together and for each other. It is so hard, but it is always worth it at the end of the day because caring for these students is the #1 objective. There is a lot of joy and fun to be had during work.
I have not stopped to think much about my own personal goals and gains from this as much as I have been focusing in on the experience, but in the future I would not shy away from work like this. Supporting people is something I think I do well in general and this is a trial for all of my skills on empathy and community. This is a huge opportunity to learn about myself and others, and I know it is that type of dynamic that I want to see in my future.
Here is a link to the website if any of you all are interested.