Danny Tonty, MSOT/S ‘14
Clinical/Community Track: Angel Baked Cookies
Why did you choose WUOT for your occupational therapy education?
I applied at WUOT because it is one of the top ranked OT schools in the country and is strongly affiliated with AOTA. WUOT is also a research institution within a strong medical community and I felt that culture would benefit my education and enhance my experiences. I also chose WUOT because the program is evidence and theory-based in addition to being hands on, which helps form the way you think.
Why did you choose a clinical/community track experience for your master’s degree?
I chose a clinical/community track experience because I wanted to apply the evidence and theory research principles to community practice.
Briefly describe your agency.
I am working with Angel Baked Cookies (ABC), a local nonprofit that is part of the North Grand Neighborhood Services. ABC empowers youth through employment, training and personal development. They employ “Angles,” high school students ages 16-19, who prepare the cookies and work on sales and marketing.
Describe your involvement with the agency (programs/services).
ABC asked WUOT to help the Angels enhance their work preparation program as the foundation for their baking, sales and marketing operations. I lead monthly workshops giving Angels a professional business workshop similar to what they might encounter with a future employer.
In December 2013, ABC was honored by the FBI and received the FBI Director's Community Leadership Award, which recognizes the efforts that ABC makes in their neighborhood. ABC recently received press coverage from STLToday.com, St. Louis Magazine and the St. Louis American.
How do you think these services enhanced your clinical skills?
Planning and conducting the workshops at ABC has taught me how to put theory and evidence into practice. Each month, I am able to refine my approaches that work best with the Angels. This community experience has also taught me to be client-centered, and to look holistically at agency needs for the populations which they serve.
How did you feel about the guidance provided by Dr. Berg?
Dr. Berg allows me to work independently, which strengthens my critical thinking and problem-solving skills. She provided me with resource materials to understand the history of St. Louis and the specific challenges of the North Grand neighborhood. Having that background and history gave me a perspective from which to better understand what challenges the Angels are facing in their day to day lives and in their environment. Dr. Berg has taught me it’s not about just delivering a workshop, but about evaluating and understanding the culture and impact on the community as a whole.
How would you describe this experience to prospective students who may be interested in community practice?
The clinical/community track experiences are all very unique depending on the agency selected. Other students are also working on program development or capacity building with their agencies. There are many opportunities available that allow you to select an agency that will give you the experiences needed to make you a well-rounded OT.
How will these experiences affect or influence your career direction after graduation?
This experience has made me more empathetic to challenging situations or clients. I completed my Fieldwork I at the Johns Hopkins Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Bloomberg Children's Center in Baltimore, Md., where I went on out into the community for an assessment of a high school environment and observed the challenges their client faced. That experience helped prepare me for this clinical track and I will be able to draw on the experiences I have had at ABC when I return to Johns Hopkins for my Fieldwork II.
Anything else you would like to add?
I am from Seattle, Wash., so living in the Midwest has been a wonderful experience. I visited so many places – Chicago, Kansas City, Nashville, Des Moines – and now I have a vested interest and knowledge of this part of the U.S. In St. Louis, it has been rewarding to be a part of the North Grand neighborhood renewal process through my work with ABC.
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Current, future and accepted applicants are encouraged to visit. We also welcome people who are exploring career options and considering occupational therapy. Dr. Kathy Kniepmann, one of our faculty members, opens our visit sessions with an informal presentation and discussion, followed by a tour that’s led by one of our current occupational therapy students.
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