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Jeannette Theodat (Brookline, Mass.), a sophomore psychology major, tasted the hardships and rewards of counseling middle school children during a January term externship with an alumna in the field.

Theodat, who wants to work as a counselor for adolescents, spent several days shadowing Lisa Ryan Ruth ’85, a student assistance counselor for Child and Family Services of Newport, R.I. Although Newport is known for its wealth and glamour, its schools have a high percentage of low-income children, some of whom need help dealing with outside issues to clear the way for learning, says Ruth.

During the externship, Theodat “got a perspective on how the school works,” Ruth says. “The educational system is very complicated. Many kids have so much going on in their lives. We have to provide a bridge between the family, school, and counseling. She saw how that all works together and how we can help kids and families.”

Theodat “did phenomenally,” adds Ruth, both in connecting with the students and serving as a good role model. “The kids were asking for her the next week.”

In the externship, Theodat sat in on mediation/conflict resolution and bereavement groups, helped monitor a breakfast program at the school, and helped students with decorating folders and making family trees. At one point, Ruth and Theodat had to take a suicidal student home and meet with her parents to arrange counseling.

“The experience taught me the difficulties of working in a school and all the different administrative things that go along with that,” she adds. “The experience also taught me how difficult it is to counsel children in the school setting.”

Theodat, who plans to get a master’s degree in counseling psychology and work with at-risk or substance abusing adolescents, describes Ruth as “an amazing woman.”

“She was so willing to answer all of my questions and explain things to me,” says the student. “She also made sure that I had an interactive experience instead of a passive one. I really liked her and admired her dedication to her job and the students at the school.”

Ruth says she is “thrilled” to provide externships, adding, “It’s like giving back what I got” since, during college, she herself had an internship at Northampton County Probation and Parole. “I also think it’s a great thing for students to get out there and see how things really work,” she adds.

Participating in Lafayette’s Alumni Externship program, Theodat was among more than 160 Lafayette students who served two- to five-day externships with alumni who are seasoned professionals in business, the arts, education, healthcare, law, engineering, science, government, non-profits, and other fields. The students shadowed the professionals at their workplaces, learned about careers they may consider entering after college, developed professional networking contacts, and built their resumes.

A graduate of Brookline High School, Theodat is a tour guide for the admissions office, member of the campus tour guide committee, and treasurer of NIA, a women’s organization that celebrates ethnicity, gender, and sisterhood. She participates in the prison tutoring program and HAPEN, an HIV and AIDS education program, both conducted through the Landis Community Outreach Center.

Categorized in: Academic News