Beyond the Walls: How Fellows at Boston Children's Go Beyond the Classroom (MA LEND)

By: Sean Fishkind, Boston Children's LEND Fellow and student at Boston College Law School

March 4, 2019

Boston Children's Fellows gather for a group picture in two rows. Fellows have worked together to build upon each other's knowledge throughout the 2018-2019 Fellowship.
Boston Children's Fellows gather for a group picture in two rows. Fellows have worked together to build upon each other's knowledge throughout the 2018-2019 Fellowship.

The interdisciplinary nature of the LEND program gives a unique flavor to each and every week, giving a variety of perspectives to each issue discussed. At Boston Children's LEND program, the interdisciplinary nature is extended beyond the the walls fellows meet in each week. Whether meeting with state leaders for Title V programs, working with Community Based Organizations ("CBOs"), or researching pressing issues in developmental disabilities, fellows are constantly pushing their boundaries. By putting an emphasis on work outside of the "classroom", fellows have expanded their knowledge in a truly interdisciplinary fashion.

At the local level, Boston Children's fellows get the opportunity to work directly with community based organizations each week. Dubbed "CBOs", the opportunities with these organizations range from assisting with a local college program for students with disabilities to helping organizations that assist immigrant populations meet a wide range of healthcare needs. The projects that the fellows undergo are exciting and impactful, from helping organizations secure grants to assisting in the development of classes and activities. Fellow Eric Schmid (Boston College Law School), who has worked extensively with two CBOs this year, captured the sentiment shared by fellows: "it's been wonderful being able to not only lend assistance, but to be welcomed into communities I otherwise wouldn't have gotten to know."

At the state level, fellows learn about and explore various Title V programs. Massachusetts has the oldest federal-state partnership in the nation for Title V funding, dating back over seventy-five years. As a result, a number of strong programs have developed which are integral to the daily lives of over a million Massachusetts residents each year. Because these essential programs can assist in giving access to a successful life span approach for patients or clients, fellows visit programs and subsequently report on what they learn to their colleagues. In doing so, each fellow has the opportunity to learn about the programming available for their future patients and clients.

To fill the gaps for both national and personalized issues, fellows work together in small groups to research and present on current issues in development disabilities. Issues discussed range from broad national topics such as an analysis of the impact of Betsy DeVos' regulatory changes in education on students with disabilities, to more intimate topics such as exploring the family dynamic of having siblings with disabilities. In addition to playing a role in informing, these presentations give fellows the opportunity to have open and honest discussions with one another about current issues.

The ways in which the Boston Children's LEND program has helped fellows interact with the community at every level (family, local, state, and national) has elevated both the experiences for fellows and the impact that fellows have on their communities. While there are only a few months remaining in the fellowship, Boston Children's has successfully equipped fellows to continue making a wide-ranging impact throughout their careers. The approach Boston Children's takes to expand the LEND experience beyond the walls can be used by anyone to become more involved in their community, learn about state programs, or stay up to date on current events.