Every college freshman knows what they want to do with the rest of their lives, right?
Well Tessa Penick, 22, didn’t know either. She knew she wanted to help people, but wasn’t sure the direction she wanted to go, until she started volunteering at Team Activities for Special Kids, also known as T.A.S.K.
“It’s a center in Fenton where they do six week program sessions in stuff like volleyball, drama, cooking, art, basketball, soccer, you name it,” Penick said. T.A.S.K is a camp for children who have behavioral issues or other forms of disabilities. The camps main goal is to help children have normal summer camp experiences, and also help develop skills that will be helpful to them outside of camp life.
One of the different sessions is volleyball, where the kids are assigned a buddy. During that time they stretch and play games and get divided into teams. They run a couple drills and then go in for huddle and say “1, 2, 3, TASK!” They try to get the kids to be as independent as possible. The sessions run for about two hours and then the kids switch to a different activity such as arts and crafts.
The camp offers social nights which help kids gain socialization skills. “They have tables set up and there is soda and music. It’s kind of like a mixer like you had in middle school.” They try to keep it casual to create a more inviting environment for the kids. She goes on to say, “It’s essentially to get the kids to socially interact in a place where they feel comfortable so they can replicate those behaviors at school and home.”
T.A.S.K. is mostly high school kids who need volunteer hours for the A+ program, but is also made up of occupational therapist, physical therapist, and other qualified individuals who help guide the kids to having fun in activities.
She has been with the program for three years and plans to return in the upcoming summer. Reminiscing on her experiences her faced lit up and she grinned said, “It genuinely makes me happy, I could go there so mad and angry and come out just so rejuvenated and refreshed.” She explains that the kids are so genuinely happy and love life. “There [are] difficult times, of course, but the happiness I can help give the kids make it worth the frustration.”
After continuously working with kids of all ages. she met Rachel. She’s not fully sure of what disability she had, but she connected with her immediately. “Rachel’s the reason I applied for Maryville’s pre-occupational therapy program” said Penick.
Penick’s family and friends describe her as a patient person. “She always has a positive attitude, and is really patient with people. I know she’s going to be a great occupational therapist” said Becky Fendler.
Penick has applied to multiple occupational therapy programs. She’s still waiting to hear back from a few different schools.