Occupied with Service

Pacific occupational therapy students meet with teens at Miller Education Center in Hillsboro to discuss goals and start working on life skills.

From a neighborhood school to an orphanage half a world away, Pacific’s School of Occupational Therapy puts community partnerships at the forefront of student learning.

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The meetings will continue every week throughout the semester, as the pairs talk, play games, learn new skills and work together on the younger students’ goals.

Most of the middle and high school students come from poverty, and many have a host of challenges outside of school that impacts their academic success. Though few have the severe disabilities that would trigger occupational therapy services through their public school, all could use extra help in finishing school, planning for college or finding jobs, and establishing independent living skills to be successful as adults.

Soriano transferred to Miller Education Center from her traditional high school when she became a teen mother. She has some support from her family, and from Miller Ed, where she is able to bring her child to an on-site daycare. Still, the balance between school and motherhood is hard.

She talks passionately to Frankamp about the pressure of knowing that her decisions will directly affect her child.
She struggles to figure out the right steps after high school to build the best life for both of them.

She also talks about wanting other teenagers to know that parenthood isn’t a carefree babysitting gig; it’s permanent and it’s serious. She dreams of making a documentary in her school about the reality of teen motherhood, for her senior project—which she hasn’t quite started in February of her senior year.

These are the kinds of things that she and Frankamp will work on weekly until graduation.

“I think it’s really awesome to get a chance to actually get out of the classroom and start working on things we’re learning about in the classroom in real life,” Frankamp said. “I’m looking forward to just kind of learning more about Karina and what dreams you have that I maybe can help with—not necessarily fix or solve or whatever—but to just walk alongside you and be your cheerleader a little bit.”

Soriano nods and smiles, “Be there to help me up.”

Sidebars: 

Elder care: New online gerontology certificate program helps healthcare providers serve aging population

In December, Pacific conferred its first gerontology certificates to a class of interdisciplinary health professionals. Pacific's first online-only program, the gerontology certification is a spin-off of the School of Occupational Therapy and seeks to improve elder care.