Beckley-based Autism Health (formerly Autism Recovery and Resource Center, PLLC) has accepted a third student from New River CTC’s Social Services program to practice case management skills – skills not only applied in southern West Virginia, but across the Atlantic Ocean in Nigeria, Africa.
Dr. Janet Lintala, Founder of Autism Health, was contacted by AIESEC in Nigeria. AIESEC (translated from French, International Association of Students in Economic and Commercial Sciences) is the world’s largest youth organization with international student volunteers from 126 countries and territories. AIESEC is a global platform for young people to explore and develop their leadership potential. AIESEC is a non-political, independent, not-for-profit organization run by higher education students and recent graduates, who are interested in world issues, leadership, and management with a mission of peace and the fulfilment of humankind’s potential. To achieve this, they seek to engage and empower every young person.
Dr. Kelli White (left) and Dr. Janet Lintala (second from left) pose for a photo with Social Services students, who raise money each year through volleyball tournaments for free services at Autism Health.
Dr. Lintala’s AIESEC liaison in Nigeria is associated with the Obafemi Awolowo University. He reached out for help because autism in Nigeria is not seen as an African disorder, and local doctors often ignore it to concentrate efforts on malaria and AIDS. AIESEC had no autism training to offer volunteers arriving from nine countries for a lengthy autism outreach project.
New River CTC Social Services student Sara Raimey thought she was walking into an office where she would greet clients and answer the telephone when she started work at Autism Health. In actuality, she was about to start her toughest assignment yet. Raimey’s project is to develop a library of PowerPoint presentations on autism to train the international volunteers in Nigeria.
She said she felt overwhelmed at first with her project assignment. She is working in the field of autism as a caregiver. She already had to adjust to the population she provides services for; she’s had her hair pulled and frequently observes tantrum behavior. She said she wants to work with this population, not for monetary gain, but to accomplish important gains for her clients.
“When you get to the point when you connect with the youth, it makes the experience worthwhile,” Raimey said. “You end up learning from them.”
Raimey is excited about the opportunity to work on the AIESEC project. The extra research on the project also helps her on the job, she said. For example, she had never broken down the process analytically of how she interacts with her clients.
“When you figure out the cause of the behavior, you can respond appropriately,” she said.
Raimey, who plans to graduate in May of 2015, challenged other New River CTC students not to pick the easy road in learning, but to be challenged to go the extra mile and apply their classroom learning in the real world.
Start Along Path to Success and Pass Along Inspiration to Others
Scheduling life around school, juggling family, and trying to make a living was not always easy for Elaine Goodman.
Elaine graduated from New River Community and Technical College in the Social Services program (formerly social services management) in May 2011. She readily admits there were times when she wanted to quit due to the barriers she faced daily.
She became interested in social work after confronting many challenges in her own life. She wanted to help others to realize they have strength to go on, something she gives credit to her Professor of Social Services, Dr. Kelli A. White.
She states she learned many lessons from New River CTC’s small, community college setting in order to learn that she could be successful in the academic setting. It was these lessons that propelled her to transfer to the University of Charleston-Beckley to complete her degree in social work.
Elaine graduated from University of Charleston in May 2014 with a bachelor’s degree in social work with honors. She has recently become employed as a case manager with Right from the Start, a program that assists new mothers with items they need for their new baby.
After graduation, she then became an inspiration to Jennifer Ayers, who told Dr. White at the start of the spring 2015 semester that a previous student was her case manager with Right from the Start. As a former student who understands the challenges of completing academic work, Elaine provided kindness and direction to Jennifer, as she was just starting her program.
“Elaine shared with me her story of persistence, adding she knew the road was going to be difficult,” Jennifer Ayers said.
It is stories like this, of a helping hand that comes full circle, that makes New River CTC’s mission so important.
“Stay Strong” With the Social Services Program
“Staying strong and finishing the course” is the constant motto given to Social Services students by Dr. Kelli A. White.
The Associate of Applied Science degree in Social Services is designed for students who want to prepare for careers with social service agencies. The program has grown on all campuses. It includes a capstone course to apply skills learned and provide practical experience for the many positions for which a student might qualify upon graduation, including case management aide, social work assistant, community outreach worker, youth worker, gerontology aide, client advocate, or psychologists’ aide. Social Service students meet the immediate need for trained service personnel at more than 15 agencies in the New River CTC service area.
Many students seek the Social Services program because they plan to stay and work in their rural communities. The Social Services program is rich in social work ethics, application based, and most important self-reflective.
Currently 73% of the students who have graduated from New River CTC have gone on to a four year university. This year, the Social Services program will graduate its largest class of 18, all who plan on continuing their education at a four year college.