Students Intern at Bay Cliff

Two NMU students are gaining hands-on experience providing speech therapy services to children this summer. But their “clinic” is not in West Science, where they previously assisted clients as part of an undergraduate practicum course. It is in cabins 41 and 42 at Bay Cliff Health Camp.

These compact quarters, situated on a scenic bluff overlooking Lake Superior, are not equipped with bunks and reserved for sleeping. They are filled with toys, tables and chairs, and are a hub of daytime activity as revolving pairs of young campers are escorted to and from their sessions.

Students providing speech therapy to an estimated 85 campers in need of such services are supervised by Lori Nelson (Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences).

“It’s a win-win situation,” Nelson said. “Bay Cliff needs therapists and Northern students can fill that need while getting a valuable internship opportunity that will enhance their resumes as they prepare for grad school. It’s a more intensive experience than they’re used to. They interact with the campers all day long, even eating with them.

“The students document each session in the 15-minute window before the next one begins – something you couldn’t do if you were working in the schools. They’re also developing report-writing skills by summarizing the campers’ progress according to the format Bay Cliff requests.”

Nelson helped with the formal testing process and sits in on therapy sessions. “She’s also like our compass; she gives us structure,” said Jessica Zuiderveen of Grand Rapids (pictured above), who will attend graduate school this fall. “Lori couldn’t be more helpful, which is great because the caseload is a lot higher here. I have 10 or so clients here compared with one or two at Northern. There’s a steep learning curve, but Bay Cliff is really cool. Everyone here supports you.”

Bay Cliff is a non-profit, non-denominational summer health camp. Its primary mission is to serve children and adults with physical disabilities. Bay Cliff’s two-month priority program serves children with speech, hearing, orthopedic and vision disabilities. The children work toward the goals of increased independence and living a fuller life. Several NMU students work at the camp each summer in various capacities, from counselors to recreation directors to kitchen staff.

“The camp is all about self-esteem and enrichment,” Zuiderveen added. “You can see it in the kids. They’re as happy as can be. It’s a more relaxed atmosphere, and the work I’m doing is very rewarding.”

NMU student Karla Bastion of Calumet (pictured right) agreed: “It’s been going really well. I worked at Bay Cliff’s adult camp as a counselor last August. That gave me some insight heading into this summer, which was helpful. I love the whole camp feeling. It’s very uplifting. It builds the kids’ confidence and makes them feel good about themselves. Being a part of it and doing speech therapy here has been good for my self-confidence, too. Northern is too close to Bay Cliff not to have connections like this.”

The NMU chapter of the National Student Speech, Language and Hearing Association raised funds last spring to purchase a new photocopier for use at Bay Cliff. Nelson also hopes to convince NMU students from outside her department of the value of helping at the camp, particularly if Bay Cliff achieves its goal of offering programs year-round. She serves as the faculty adviser for a new campus organization, Students for Bay Cliff.


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Updated: July 19, 2006

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