By Christina DiMauro
Haily Reatherford, senior at Sacred Heart, has committed her college career to preparing herself for graduate school.
As a Health Science major, with a concentration in Speech-Language Pathology (SLP), she has taken on many responsibilities, including programmer of National Student Speech Language Hearing Association (NSSLHA), and president of the Student Academy of Audiology.
Recently, she had the opportunity to go on a university-run service trip to Guatemala, with the speech program. Also in attendance were students involved in occupational therapy and physical therapy. During this trip, Reatherford had the opportunity to work with a wide range of disabled individuals.
“I was able to have a clinical experience, something I won’t necessarily be able to have until I go to graduate school,” said Reatherford. “I performed many hearing screenings, and assisted with fitting hearing aids. I also learned more about hearing loss as a whole.”
Reatherford also educated both teachers and parents on healthy communication skills and hearing strategies both in, and out of, the classroom.
“My favorite part of the trip was going to a school for the deaf, called, Lovista. This translates to, ‘voice of the silent ones.’ I found that day to be special,” said Reatherford. For me, there was a double-language barrier. Not only did these students not speak English, but they also spoke in Guatemalan sign language.”
This allowed Reatherford to build her own communication skills, so that she could talk to these students properly.
“My peers and I had to think outside of the box to communicate with the students at Lovista. In the end, we were all able to foster rich conversations with one another,” said Reatherford. “We exchanged so many thoughts and ideas and the students ended up teaching me that communication can be very complex, but also very simple.”
While in Guatemala, Reatherford quickly learned how to adapt to a clinical environment, something she most-likely will not experience again until graduate school.
“I went to Guatemala with a really good group of people, and Dr. Marroto was really excellent at teaching us hands-on clinical work in such a short period of time,” said Reatherford.
The SLP students had the chance to work alongside both occupational therapy and physical therapy students.
“I was surprised by how much these three fields ended up overlapping,” said Reatherford. “We ended up working together, and I quickly learned how we all can work inter-professionally to improve even one person’s outcome as a whole.”
On the last day of the trip, Sacred Heart students got to hike up a volcano.
“I was really nervous about getting altitude sickness, but by the time we got to the top, I was so amazed by its views that I forgot that I had hiked hours just to get to the top,” said Reatherford.
The hike allowed Reatherford and fellow students to experience a different atmosphere, something she had never done before.
“I learned a lot about different cultures, and how to approach someone from a different culture,” said Reatherford. “I found that I am very passionate about the deaf population, and maybe that’s where my future will take me.”
Reatherford says the entire experience made her thankful for all that she has, considering we sometimes take things for granted in the United States.
“In the United States, we appreciate going to the doctor and receiving treatment, and that’s something that those from other countries might not always have the access to,” said Reatherford. “But, the people of Guatemala were so happy and so grateful, to have us there. It really shows how something so small to some, can make such a big difference to others.”
Reatherford took value in her trip to Central America, and is grateful for the opportunity she had to work closely with a different culture.
“I don’t think it will be my last time working in Guatemala, I want to go back,” said Reatherford. “A week was truly not long enough.”