For more than 45 years, Bridgewater State University (BSU) has sponsored the Children’s Physical Developmental Clinic (CPDC), a nationally recognized academic program fostering professional development, service learning and leadership engagement. Since 1974 the Children’s Physical Developmental Clinic has filled a need in the community and in developing ethics of BSU students. The CPDC, the largest student organization on the BSU campus, affords well over 100 students from all majors a challenging opportunity to volunteer working with children and youth with disabilities, ages 18 months to 18 years. The children are exposed to a broad range of challenging physical and motor experiences in the clinic, contributing to their development of life skills and values, such as resilience, tenacity, confidence, and perseverance.
With the help of senior staff, student group leaders, and invited guest lecturers from Boston area universities and teaching hospitals, new students sense a community of support and an educational climate, which fosters both personal confidence and professional competence. Student learn early that the program is one where communication, collaboration and adaptability are vital and nurtured values. Most importantly, students learn how their professional ambitions can be transformed through the service of others.
Student Clinicians view volunteering in the CPDC as a means of self-enrichment and professional preparation. Moreover, student clinicians have come to know the clinic program as a powerful tool for transforming oneself from a passive a recipient of service to an active learner and provider of service. Students in the clinic learn through hands-on participation by identifying and analyzing children’s deficiencies and, as a team, working together to ameliorate weaknesses. Today’s higher education trend of service learning at the university level provides support for the importance of the clinic program on the Bridgewater State University campus – one of professional development and mentoring students for their future crucial role of “civil servant” upon graduation.
The BSU clinic program has increased steadily in size and scope of service over the years. The value of the clinic experience today is well known to student clinicians and trusted by parents, educational and medical professionals throughout the New England area. The following program objectives, established during the spring of 1974, remain key to the CPDC’s success today:
- To provide an educational climate which mirrors real life challenges and provides validation of student professional worthiness.
- To foster an atmosphere in which communication between students and faculty is encouraged and recognized as important.
- To assist students to be competitive professionals, yet instill in them an appreciation for developing both confident and collaborative relationships among those with whom they work.
These time-honored program objectives continue to be common threads helping to attract a student population heterogeneous in character, field of study, and professional ambition. After all these years, the CPDC continues to serve the many interests of students by providing a democratic, pragmatic, challenging, and broadening educational experience.