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Seton Hall University Health and Medical Sciences

Speech-Language Pathology Students Demonstrate Servant Leadership Through Volunteer Efforts

SLP students volunteer.

First and second-year Seton Hall SLP students at NJEDDA’s Family Fun Day on Saturday, October 21, 2023. From left to right: Amy Jacobsen, Melissa Soccodato, Elizabeth Fastuca, Natalie Petrillo, Maya Dobrygowski, Juliette Linares, Jacqueline Fagan.

Graduate Speech-Language Pathology (SLP) students from Seton Hall University School of Health and Medical Sciences (SHMS) recently volunteered at the North Jersey Elks Developmental Disabilities Agency’s (NJEDDA) annual Family Fun Day. NJEDDA is a private, non-profit special education school in Clifton, NJ, which provides educational and therapeutic services through its toddler, elementary, middle, and high school programs, in addition to its Adult Training Center. NJEDDA is one of several specialized schools in the area that supervises Seton Hall’s SLP students as clinical interns, equipping them with the skills and hands-on experience necessary to work as part of a team serving clients with diverse needs. 

This year, NJEDDA hosted a fall and Halloween-themed Family Fun Day where students, families, staff, and community volunteers connected through activities like pumpkin decorating, arts and crafts, face painting, carnival games, trick-or-treating, and a petting zoo. 

The event, held from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. on October 21, had a successful turnout despite the rainy weather. Students and their families had a blast dressing up in their Halloween costumes and enjoying the festivities in an environment that was accessible and catered to their individualized needs, including the use of wheelchairs and multiple means of communication. 

Melissa Soccodato, a second-year SLP student and the social chair of Seton Hall’s graduate chapter of the National Student Speech-Language Hearing Association (NSSLHA), coordinated the chapter’s participation in this year’s Family Fun Day. She is also a clinical intern at NJEDDA’s elementary school this semester. She explained that during her internship, she works with students on "vocabulary acquisition, feeding, and utilizing AAC (Augmentative and Alternative Communication) devices" in a collaborative environment where "there is great communication between SLPs, OTs (occupational therapists), PTs (physical therapists), and teachers."

When asked about her favorite part of Family Fun Day, Melissa said, "Getting to see my students so happy was the best part! I see them work so hard every day (during my internship), and I am incredibly proud of the progress they are making." She also noted that connecting with parents at the event, and being able to provide an inclusive space for the students was incredibly rewarding.

Melissa said that Family Fun Day was beneficial to her and the other volunteers as graduate clinicians, pointing out that, "anyone who attended the event got a true taste of what it was like to be a part of NJEDDA" as it allowed volunteers to interact with NJEDDA employees where they could "ask questions about the specialized school setting."

Amy Jacobsen, a first-year SLP student, said that volunteering at Family Fun Day allowed her to "be a part of this community and interact with so many different kids and families." She said she was grateful to "meet some of the other SLPs at the school and see how they interacted with their clients and their families." Amy said she recognized the importance of SLPs building this student-family rapport, which is a large focus of her graduate coursework this semester. 

"Our student volunteers enjoyed giving back to the community and gained valuable experience working with children with multiple disabilities," said Megan Baumley, M.S., CCC-SLP, director of clinical education, Department of Speech-Language Pathology, and NSSLHA faculty advisor. "This event highlights the compassionate servant leadership of our SLP students in action," she added. 

In response to society’s rapidly changing needs, the School of Health and Medical Sciences combines the expertise of Seton Hall University with the resources of affiliate healthcare sites to provide exemplary academic and clinical training in graduate-level health sciences and health administration programs. The school's emphasis on interprofessional education prepares healthcare leaders of tomorrow to focus on patient-centered care and to make a difference in patients' lives and their communities.

Categories: Campus Life, Health and Medicine