For a long time, Emily Santos, ’19, remained silent. However, she’s verbal now and helping others to discover the joy of language.
Born prematurely and developmentally delayed, Emily did not start talking until she was 3.
“My speech therapist is the reason I have a voice today… I want to help children and adults the same way my therapist helped me,” the Mendon native said.
Through Dr. Karen Aicher, Emily became aware of the Book Fairy Pantry Project, a grassroots family literacy movement where volunteers collect new and gently used children’s books and deliver them to participating food pantries for families to take home.
As a member of the BSU National Student Speech-Language-Hearing Association (NSSLHA), Emily organized and brought the project to campus and is asking community members to drop off books at donation boxes located in Boyden Hall, Burnell Hall and the Moakley Center.
Books should be geared toward children age 10 and younger.
“Families visiting the food pantry don’t have the resources or time to go to the library or bookstore to pay for books. This is a great way to give families a little more support and to get books in the home for children,” Emily said.
Getting the books into children’s homes not only strengthens the parent-child bond but also improves literacy.
“These books benefit families because it allows parents to read to their child. Creating a bond by interacting through books has been proven to improve literacy rates,” Emily said. “Children who are not exposed to books don’t know how to read once they get into elementary school and fall behind when they get into the classroom.”
After Emily graduates, the program will live on through the NSSHLA.
The ambitious Bear made the most of her time on campus, including taking part in BSU’s Children’s Physical Developmental Clinic, a nationally recognized academic program where students volunteer as clinicians and work with individuals, aged 18 months to 18 years, with disabilities.
She served as president of Operations Smile, a club that raises money for children and adults around the world who need surgery to correct cleft palates, and volunteered at Boston’s Massachusetts Eye and Ear, where she worked in the voice and speech laboratory, shadowing four speech language pathologists.
Emily also worked in the Whitman-Hanson district’s preschools, observing in the classroom and providing support to teachers.
The soon-to-be-graduate said all of these experiences are valuable and give her confidence to embark on the next leg of her journey – graduate school at Worcester State University, where she will study to become a speech-language pathologist.
“My experience at BSU formulated who I am today. I wouldn’t be going to graduate school if not for the support I’ve received here,” she said. “I encourage students to step out of their comfort zones, do things you’ve never done before. Bridgewater has done more for me than I ever thought it could. Take advantage of all the opportunities out there.”
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