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Merrimack fellows get education, work experience

January 20, 2015
Michaela Crossen was graduating college and wanted to get a master’s degree in higher education, but her mother urged her to get into the workplace, to gain experience and pay bills.

Crossen’s college roommate told her about a program at Merrimack in which students who are admitted into a highly selective program can earn a fellowship and get a master’s degree in a year, tuition-free. She was accepted and is midway through her one-year program.

Merrimack offers fellowships for teacher education, higher education, and community engagement. During a fellowship, students earn a master’s degree and in exchange do an on-site residency of 25 to 40 hours a week.

The application period for next year’s class is open until Feb. 15.

The school is expecting to get as many as 300 applications to fill 100 to 110 seats, said Dan Butin, dean of the School of Education & Social Policy.

This is the fourth year the school has recruited for the fellowships.

“The interest has grown and the pool of applicants has grown to a national level,” Butin said.

The students not only get practical experience, they are in the community representing Merrimack, making an impact as good social partners, he said.

They get a year of field experience and a personal look at what it’s like to work in their chosen field.

Students in the teacher education program typically assist professional educators in are public schools to enhance the learning experience for children. Students who plan to work in higher education, such as Crossen, work regional colleges and community colleges as they prepare for administrative and leadership positions.

“The whole idea of it is the field experience they get for one full year,” Butin said. “It’s an unrivaled experience way beyond an internship, coop, or practicum.”

Crossen is working for the Marketing Department in Merrimack’s Communications Office as she works on her degree in higher education. Her schedule includes four-day workweeks with classes and homework at night.

Crossen’s undergraduate degree in English had a focus in journalism but her passion for working in the news business waned as her interest in education matured.

“I would really like to manage university or college social media accounts,” Crossen recently said.

She worked in the marketing department at college alongside an employee in charge of social media and saw how powerful a tool it can be to help promote colleges or universities messages.

“It’s something that’s changed the way everybody sees the world and is a great function for universities and colleges,” she said.

Fellowship students pursing a master of education in community engagement are preparing for careers as nonprofit leaders, social change activists, and leaders in the national service learning movement. Merrimack’s fellows often work at organizations such as Greater Lawrence Community Action Council, Inc. and Bread & Roses Soup Kitchen in Lawrence.

Brittany Vine is from Calgary, Canada but made the 4,500-kilometer trip to North Andover in her lime-colored Ford Fiesta for her fellowship in community engagement because it seemed like a good fit for her goal of working in the non-profit sector.

She’s loving the experience.

“I think one of the big things that drew me to this program was a focus on social justice and practical experience,” Vine said. “Those elements made the Community Engagement program standout”

Vine has a bachelor’s in development studies and a minor in French, and has already made several trips to West Africa working for non-profits.

The community engagement fellowship is teaching her practical skills and putting them in the context of issues in North America.

As an international student Vine works about 20 hours a week. She splits her time working at Merrimack’s community engagement office in the School of Education and Social Policy and Harvard University’s Equity, Diversity & Inclusion strategy in the Office of Student Life.

“It’s been a great opportunity for me adjusting to two different work places and defining my place and seeing those different pieces and how they connect,” Vine said

For more information about the fellowship program, visit www.merrimack.edu/fellowships.

  • Merrimack graduate fellow Kayla Szettella, of North Andover, is being credited with saving a first grader at Atkinson Elementary School from death or serious injury when she performed the Heimlich maneuver on him when he choked on a Fruit Roll-Ups Jan. 12.Merrimack graduate fellow Kayla Szettella, of North Andover, is being credited with saving a first grader at Atkinson Elementary School from death or serious injury when she performed the Heimlich maneuver on him when he choked on a Fruit Roll-Ups Jan. 12.

    Kayla Szettella saves choking boy


    Merrimack graduate fellow Kayla Szettella is doing her on-site residency at Atkinson Elementary School in North Andover with teacher Stephanie Boudreau but she was alone with their students when one of them choked on a Fruit Roll-Ups during snack time Jan. 12 about 10:15 a.m.

    Szettella is getting credited with saving the boy’s life or at least avoiding serious injury.

    “There was an act of heroism that took place over here last Monday,” said Principal Greg Landry.

    Szettella afterward said she might have panicked and deferred action if another adult were in the room when the boy began choking but Boudreau was attending a funeral and paraprofessional Peggy Miller called out sick that day so there was nobody else on whom to rely. “He started to jump up and down, hold his throat and was visibly in crisis,” Szettella said.

    She walked around her desk to the table at which the boy was sitting, and using her best teacher’s voice ordered the other students to turn around so they wouldn’t see her perform the Heimlich maneuver on the struggling student.

    “There are enough scary things and doing what I was going to do, I didn’t want them to see that,” she said.

    About the same time she told a girl in the class to go get the school nurse. Szettella doesn’t know how many of the students actually turned around because she went to work quickly. She wrapped her arms around the 6- or 7-year-old and gave two quick thrusts.

    The Fruit Roll-Up popped out of his mouth.

    When she was confident the boy was breathing again, Szettella took the boy to the nurse and found the girl sitting politely outside the nurse’s office waiting her turn to go inside. Apparently, in keeping calm and using her teacher’s voice, Szettella hadn’t conveyed any sense of urgency to the little girl. The nurse checked out the boy and he went home but returned to class the next day as if nothing had happened.

    Principal Greg Landry sent home a note to parents explaining the choking and Szettella’s life-saving actions.

    When Szettella returned to the classroom, she talked about the incident with the other students.

    “I kind of walked them through it and why I did it,” she said. Szettella appeared calm afterward.

    Szettella even fooled herself for a while. It wasn’t until she was passing out hand wipes to students later, that Szettella realized her hands were shaking.

    Szettella, 23, of North Andover, went to the Atkinson as a young girl. She learned the Heimlich maneuver at summer camp on Lake Winnipesaukee leading into her freshman year of high school but hadn’t practiced it since or ever used it in crisis before.

    “I got in touch with the lady who taught me and said, ‘I guess you don’t forget,’” Szettella said.

    No other teacher has ever had to perform the Heimlich maneuver at the Atkinson before, said Landry who’s been principal about eight years.

    “First time; hopefully, last time,” he said. Szettella appeared calm afterward.

    “There were no signs of being flustered at all,” Landry said.

    He worked at another school once at which a boy suffered permanent physical harm after choking on a meatball, Landry said.

    “That popped into my mind, how fortunate we are,” he said.

    Landry praised Szettella’s overall contributions to the school. He originally expected her to come in as a reading tutor but at the last minute the school needed a student teacher and she stepped into the breach. Szettella did her undergraduate work at Bridgewater State University.

    She graduated last spring and decided to pursue her master’s degree using Merrimack’s fellowship program in which she gets free tuition in exchange for the residency at the Atkinson.

    “I had a friend (Kristen McCarthy, of North Andover) who did it and she said it was a great program,” Szettella said. “So I decided to apply and ended up getting it.”

    The Atkinson has about 425 students in grades kindergarten through five.

 

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  • Brittany Vine drove her lime-colored Ford Fiesta 4,500-kilometers from Calgary, Canada to North Andover to attend Merrimack as a fellow in community engagement.
    Brittany Vine drove her lime-colored Ford Fiesta 4,500-kilometers from Calgary, Canada to North Andover to attend Merrimack as a fellow in community engagement.
  • Michaela Crossen attends Merrimack as a higher education fellow and works in the Marketing Department in Merrimack's Communications Office.
    Michaela Crossen attends Merrimack as a higher education fellow and works in the Marketing Department in Merrimack's Communications Office.
  • Atkinson Elementary School Principal Greg Landry (left) and first grade teacher Stephanie Boudreau (right) hailed Merrimack graduate fellow Kayla Szettella for using the Heimlich maneuver on a student who waschoking on a Fruit Roll-Ups Jan. 12. The boys coughed up the candy and resumed breathing after the life-saving maneuver. The Heimlich had never been used at the school in an emergency before, Landry said.
    Atkinson Elementary School Principal Greg Landry (left) and first grade teacher Stephanie Boudreau (right) hailed Merrimack graduate fellow Kayla Szettella for using the Heimlich maneuver on a student who waschoking on a Fruit Roll-Ups Jan. 12. The boys coughed up the candy and resumed breathing after the life-saving maneuver. The Heimlich had never been used at the school in an emergency before, Landry said.

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