Each year, approximately 200 Schweitzer Fellows across the U.S. commit themselves to creating and carrying out an intense yearlong service project that addresses unmet health needs — all on top of their typical graduate school responsibilities.
It’s an awe-inspiring commitment — and one that may at times seem thankless.
But for each Schweitzer Fellow, there are those sustaining moments — the moments when things “click,” and you have instant, inspiring proof that your Schweitzer project is making a difference that’s rippling outward.
Whether it’s a child who tells you that he took what he learned through your project and convinced his uncle to quit smoking, or an adult patient who receives dental care for the first time in her life and emerges newly committed to her family’s oral health, these are the Moments That Matter — and here at Beyond Boulders we’ll be spotlighting them every Tuesday.
First up, this Moment That Matters from North Carolina Schweitzer Fellow Kelli York, who (along with partner Rachel Dent) worked with the Language and Literacy Enhancement and Development Project to provide both face-to-face direct language and literacy enhancement to underserved preschool children, and outreach services to those children’s parents.
One of the most memorable times during the Fellowship was working with a set of triplets who were all nonverbal. One day we did a lesson on sports. The triplets were not as engaged as I would have liked, but we went on with the lesson as usual. Throughout the lesson I emphasized the word “ball,” seeing that our letter of the week was “b.” The triplets initially would not even attempt the “b” sound. As the lesson progressed to the activity in which we played basketball, the triplets became more and more engaged. I continued to emphasize the word ball and the letter b throughout the activity. When it was one of the triplets turn to shoot the basketball, I ask him what is this (referring to the ball)? He responded, ball! All of the clinicians and I were in awe. He had spoken! Luckily the triplets’ parents were watching in an observation room and heard their child say an actual word for the first time. Soon after, the other two of the triplets began saying words as well. By the end of the semester the triplets were more engaged in the lessons and saying words! I was really amazed to see the effects of our program.