SRU’s civic engagement breakfast to spotlight recreational therapy service-learning programs


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Slippery Rock University’s service-learning programs that benefit local children and young adults with autism, including Camp ROCK and the TRAILS program, will be discussed as part of the next “Spotlight on Civic Engagement” breakfast, hosted by the SRU Office of Community-Engaged Learning, Feb. 16 at the Smith Student Center Theater.

Feb. 9, 2018

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - Slippery Rock University's Office of Community-Engaged Learning is hosting its fourth "Spotlight on Civic Engagement" presentation as part of its ongoing breakfast series to share the many ways the University is engaging in service-learning.



Betsy Kemeny, assistant professor of parks, conservation and recreational therapy, will lead the presentation, "Learning through Active Involvement and Reflection: Leveraging Outcomes for Different Needs" from 8-9:30 a.m., Feb. 16 in the Smith Student Center Theater. The session, which includes a pancake breakfast, is free and open to the public, but attendees must RSVP on the event page of SRU's CORE platform or by emailing

Kemeny will share techniques used to enable student reflection and critical thinking for service-learning programs where SRU students assist local children and young adults with autism spectrum disorder.

"We teach the skills and the students get to apply them with real people," Kemeny said. "They have to reflect on their own communication and how they help the clients with their goals, but they also have to integrate what they're learning in the classroom."

Kemeny will explain successful practices in service-learning related to two community outreach programs she directs: the TRAILS program, which stands for Therapeutic Recreation: Accessing Independent Leisure and Social Skills, and Camp ROCK, which stands for Recreational Opportunities Connecting Kids.

TRAILS is a yearlong program at the University's Storm Harbor Equestrian Center that integrates sections of Kemeny's Recreational Therapy Services course. SRU students attend class on Tuesdays and work with autistic children at the center for two hours in a variety of activities, from horseback riding to gardening to the creative arts.

Camp ROCK is a six-hour extended school year program at the Butler County Family YMCA that takes place for two weeks in late June where SRU students and local high school students without disabilities work with people with autism from ages 12-21. Typically, 14 SRU students from the three-credit Recreational Therapy Practicum course participate in Camp ROCK.

"It's a win-win for a lot of people," Kemeny said. "There's a partnership where we work together to deliver community service. It benefits the students because they get leadership opportunities, it benefits high school students who participate as mentors, and it helps people with autism."

Camp ROCK, now entering its eighth year, involves activities such as basketball, fishing, dancing and even life skills such as money management.

"It's not just to have fun," said Kemeny, who emphasized that the programs are structured so they are safe for both the college students and campers to grow and learn. "It's goal-directed to help a child improve a particular social skill."

Because the TRAILS program includes freshmen, upperclassmen from the program, called peer service leaders, work with them as well. Two of the peer service leaders will be part of the Spotlight on Civic Engagement presentation: Kristen Laird, a senior recreational therapy major from Linesville, and Alexa Manolio, a senior recreational therapy major from Chesterland, Ohio.

Francine Mills, executive director of the Butler YMCA and co-director of Camp ROCK, will also take part in the Spotlight presentation.

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