Student works at SEASPAR

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Maeve Rice '20 helps program participant (photo courtesy of Rice).

Lizzie Patel, reporter

Since Maeve Rice ‘20 was very young, she knew that she wanted to help people with special needs, she said. After observing her little brother in his occupational and speech therapy sessions, she found inspiration to help people with special needs.

“Every day my little brother inspires me to keep working toward my goal and passion of helping people like him,” Rice said. “I want to make a positive impact on people with disabilities and special needs.”

Rice has started working toward this goal through her work at South East Association for Special Parks and Recreation (SEASPAR) in Downers Grove. She works there throughout the year. In the summer, Rice is a camp counselor who works with younger kids running a variety of activities and games.

“It is really fun to hang out with the participants, especially during the summer,” Rice said. “I love working with the younger kids and seeing how much it impacts them to be able to participate in a summer camp.”

During the school year, Rice balances school work and SEASPAR’s after school program, “Teen Scene.” On Mondays for three hours throughout the entirety of the school year, Rice assists participants, aged 16 to 26, on field trips to different areas in the community. Activities can include shopping, movies and bowling. On Tuesdays, Rice helps run animal-assisted therapy, where she works with individuals with special needs and Rainbow therapy dogs.

“The work I have done at SEASPAR has given me invaluable experience,” Rice said. “I get to help first hand in the field that I eventually want to work in once I graduate college, which is not something that most high schoolers get a chance to do.”

Rice plans to major in Psychology in college. After this, she will need to obtain a master’s from a program approved by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board, so that she can reach her goal of becoming a therapist for individuals with special needs.

“It is not going to be easy,” Rice said. “But it is what I have always wanted to do with my life, and now I am completely sure of it.”

In addition to working at SEASPAR, Rice volunteers multiple times a year at dances for adults with special needs and organizes groups of volunteers to attend these events. Katie Hart ‘20 has volunteered alongside Rice through the LEO (Leadership, Experience, Opportunity) club, of which Rice is president.

“[Rice] is passionate and dedicated to service,” Hart said. “She is very compassionate and down to earth, so everyone is comfortable around her.”

Rice also enjoys SEASPAR because it connects her to like-minded individuals who share her same passions for helping individuals with special needs, she said.

“I really have fun hanging out and talking to my coworkers,” Rice said. “It is always great to find people who share your interests.