When Medical Assistant student Brenda Moritz began her service learning project at
the Good Shepherd Community in Sauk Rapids, Minnesota, she had no idea that she
was destined for a life-changing experience.
Her CMA review class had planned a Health Fair for the senior community that
included fitness exercises, hygiene and nutrition presentations, free blood
pressure checks and creative crafts. It was a great project that she was proud
to be a part of, but when she saw a disabled resident communicating with Good
Shepherd staff using a coded board, the moment suddenly became something much
bigger to her.
“When she [Kathy Kampa] came in the room and I saw people using the board to talk to her,” Moritz said, “I wanted to
know how to get to know this woman.”
Born with Cerebral Palsy, Kampa is unable to speak. Moritz resolved to learn how to communicate with her and asked Volunteer Coordinator Jenny Zimmer to help.
“She [Moritz] was amazed how hard Kathy tried and wanted to be part of the group,” Zimmer said.
Moritz already had an extern site assigned but asked to go to Good Shepherd instead and specifically requested to work with Kampa. Her number one goal was to learn how to conquer the communication challenges. It took time, but eventually Moritz learned the codes that Kampa uses to express her thoughts. In addition, Kampa has a computer that
she can manipulate with her eye movements to communicate.
Although an atypical experience, Moritz is delighted with her work at Good Shepherd and personally gratified with her relationship to Kampa.
Not without its challenges, the externship proved both surprising and rewarding as Moritz worked with other residents besides Kampa at Good Shepherd.
Moritz explains that she experienced many situations that other MA students undoubtedly would not in an externship.
“Many won’t get to experience death at the extern sites; whereas, I did four times. I helped residents [get] ready to be sent to the hospital. [I also] worked with residents that have memory loss, behavioral issues and severe disabilities.”
The applied learning from the externship leads directly to her next career, Moritz adds. “I think that it will help me communicate with anyone with disabilities and understand them. I think it taught me more patience.”
Because of the unique nature of the externship, Moritz and Kampa agreed to present to a current CMA Review class at MSB and encourage the students to consider a Good Shepherd service experience. Kampa “likes to go places,” Moritz explains, and enjoys the one-on-one attention.
As a result of the presentation, two MA students have since applied for externships at Good Shepherd Community.
The relationship between Moritz and
Kampa became so personal and special during the externship that Kampa let it be known that she wanted to
attend and support Moritz’s fall quarter graduation from Minnesota School of
Business—which she did—wheelchair and all.
And it was difficult to tell whose smile
was larger that evening: Moritz’s or Kampa’s.
“It was nice to have a new friend,” said