Chascity-Mae Sarmiento ’19 Knew She "Really Wanted to Help People"

Chascity-Mae Sarmiento ’19 is headed for a career in social work following her graduation from Pacific University this spring. She will seek her master’s degree, then become a professional.

“I knew I really wanted to help people,” said Sarmiento, who is from Oahu, Hawai’i. She attended Pacific, she said, because it allowed her to continue to stay engaged with Hawaiian and Polynesian culture.

“I knew Pacific had a huge Hawai’i club and a huge support system,” she said.

At Pacific, Sarmiento’s senior project focused on animal-assisted therapy. She worked with children, using animals as a way to help the children express their feelings and needs.

“I developed a group therapy program for children who have experienced maltreatment focused on emotional literacy,” she said, explaining that the effort helped map the child’s feelings onto the animal, then sought the child’s help in treating it.

“A kiddo who comes in who is really anxious, the dog will really pick up on that, and the dog will kind of jump around, they’ll bark, they’ll be running around and they won’t be able to listen,” she explained. “And the clinician will say, ‘It looks like the dogs are so excited but they’re having a hard time focusing. How do you think we can help them?’

“And so the kiddo will maybe will take a deep breath and they’ll be like, ‘OK, we need to calm down.’ And they’ll get down on their knees, they’ll give the dog pets, they might give the dog a toy, or a chew toy to help them calm down. And that translates to their own coping skills of how they calm down, too.”

Aug. 13, 2019