While the woods of a summer camp might seem like an odd place to practice social work, Keuka College’s McKenzie Low ’23 found them an ideal location to put her classroom knowledge into action.
Thanks to a summer Field Period® internship as a camp supervisor at the Center for Youth’s EarthWorks Program in Rochester, N.Y., the senior Social Work major spent eight weeks blending the lessons she learned in the classroom with on-the-ground, hands-on learning.
“This Field Period showed me that you can do anything in social work,” said McKenzie, who worked with campers aged 5-15. “You can be out in the woods all day and play games with kids. You don’t have to sit in an office all day.”
McKenzie’s responsibilities included conflict resolution, leading games, and teaching the campers about a variety of nature and wildlife. She also actively relied on her Keuka College classroom knowledge throughout her Field Period, particularly drawing from her Human Behavior and the Social Environment course, taught by Professor of Social Work Jen Mealey.
In that course, McKenzie learned about a theory posed by Erik Erikson, one of the most influential psychoanalysts of the 20th century.
“When McKenzie took my course, Erikson and his 8 Stages of Psychosocial Development was one of the theories we covered,” said Professor Mealey. “I am sure she was able to pinpoint the stages the campers were in. Knowing that information would assist her in assessing their needs from a psychosocial perspective and use age-appropriate problem-solving strategies.”
And Prof. Mealey was right. During her Field Period, McKenzie was able to get a first-hand look at that theory in action.
“I saw in the 12-15-year-olds … they are in the stage of identity, and seeing them try to solidify who they are while I was with them was cool,” she said. “With the younger children, I observed that they want to play, use their imaginations, and they wanted me to be involved with their play. I feel like I was watching all of the campers grow over the weeks.”
While initially ambivalent about working with children, McKenzie discovered interacting with the kids, getting to know them, and hearing their stories was her favorite part of her Field Period.
“There were a couple of younger kids who would follow me around all day long, asking questions and talking and talking and talking … they latched on to me and I enjoyed that,” said McKenzie. “There was also a group of four brothers who were at the camp all at the same time. They were all so smart and witty and fought all the time. Which is where part of the conflict resolution came in.”
McKenzie knows those skills will serve her well in her budding social work career
“Conflict resolution goes beyond kids,” she said. “It happens with people of all ages, and I think being able to have that ability to talk through an issue will be something I carry through my lifetime.”
She plans to take these experiences into her upcoming Field Practicum where she intends to utilize some of the games she played with the campers “because they were interactive and taught a lesson.”
Just like her Keuka College classes.
“The curriculum is layered so what you learn in one class is reiterated throughout all of your classes, and I like that,” said McKenzie, who aims to work with veterans.
“I took a class on military culture and I had to interview a veteran, so I talked to my uncle who served in Vietnam,” said McKenzie. “It was the most amazing conversation I’d ever had and talking to him was an incredible experience. So I want to help veterans like him. Thanks to my Keuka College classes, and my experience from Field Period and practicum, I am confident going into my career.”
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