Psychology: Student combines service and academics at Cleveland Clinic internship
For his passion for service, Waynesburg University awarded Kyle Digiandomenico the prestigious Bonner Scholarship as an incoming freshman. Now three years later, the junior psychology major credits the scholarship for not only allowing him to become a better servant leader, but also for helping to earn him a summer 2013 internship at the world-renowned Cleveland Clinic.
“I used many techniques I learned in my psychology classes,” Digiandomenico said. “But without experience from many of the sites I serve at through the Bonner Scholar Program, I would not have been equipped to pursue the internship.”
Waynesburg is one of only 23 higher education institutions in the nation to award the Bonner Scholarship, which offers scholarships to approximately 15 incoming scholars each year. The scholarship requires awardees to perform eight to 10 hours of community service each week, as well as two summers dedicated to serving.
For Digiandomenico, a summer at the Clinic counted toward the Bonner Scholar Program’s summer service requirement, while also fitting within his academic pursuits. According to Evan Kephart, the Interim Coordinator of the Bonner Scholar Program, Digiandomenico embodies what Waynesburg University means by “service learning.”
“There is a huge difference between service and service learning,” Kephart, a former Waynesburg University Bonner Scholar himself, said. “When a student is able to serve within their selected field of study, they are able to take the knowledge and skills they have learned in the classroom and bring them to bear in solving social or environmental issues. That is what makes Kyle's situation so significant; he was able to use his classroom learning to serve kids at a higher level, which is exactly what the Bonner Program is about.”
Digiandomenico said that working with children and understanding the concepts from his psychology courses prepared him for work as an undergraduate group counselor at the Clinic. He worked with Cleveland Clinic’s Summer Treatment Program for children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) to help modify behaviors, develop problem solving skills and enable them to take control of their behavior.
Located in Cleveland, Ohio, Cleveland Clinic is a nonprofit, multispecialty academic medical center that integrates clinical and hospital care with research and education. The Summer Treatment Program (STP) is a seven-week behavior modification program that helps children, adolescents and their families learn to manage ADHD.
“I was assigned two specific children from our group of 10,” Digiandomenico said. “I created individual goals, requirements and plans for them. I was responsible for labeling the negative behaviors, documenting them on a chart and creating goals that we tailored to the specific frequency of negative behaviors.”
As a part-time basketball coach for the Clinic, he worked to develop positive social interactions between the children in the classroom, a typical setting and an athletic setting. He also hosted daily therapy sessions for the children during which they could discuss anything they wanted.
“My favorite part was getting to know the children on a deeper level,” Digiandomenico said. “It was a great experience to understand what the children were struggling with at that point in their lives and it was so exciting to work with them one on one to come up with skills to solve those problems.”
Digiandomenico relied on his faith, developed in the heart and nurtured at Waynesburg University, to step outside of his comfort zone and apply for an internship with young people experiencing ADHD.
“It was very challenging to work with attention deficient children, but I gained a new understanding of patience and problem solving skills,” he said. “I had learned the techniques in class, I had served several populations and I was discovering God’s will for me. Serving at the Clinic was an opportunity for me to tie all three aspects of my life together in real practice.”