Students, faculty aid farm workers in south Georgia volunteer clinics

A farm worker and PT student work on an exercise at a previous event. (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)

Students and faculty from Brenau University’s Ivester College of Health Sciences and College of Education will travel to Moultrie, Georgia, as part of the Moultrie Farm Workers Family Health Program from June 19-24.

The program offers free health care and other services to migrant farm workers and their families in the southwest Georgia city and surrounding area during a two-week period. This marks the fourth year Brenau’s Physical Therapy Department will participate in the annual program and the second for the Lynn J. Darby School of Psychology and Adolescent Counseling. The education team led by Assistant Professor Laura Cantu is joining the project for the first time.

PT students work with a farm worker during the 2018 event
Brenau students at a previous event. (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)

“As part of Brenau University’s commitment to provide multicultural and service-oriented opportunities to our students, this is an excellent way to help students get involved with other cultures and to learn through opportunities to give of themselves,” Cantu said. 

Kia Shields, WC ’19, BU ’20, one of two education students making the trip, is pursuing a doctorate in elementary education and teaches second grade. She hopes what she learns will benefit her classroom at Fair Street International Academy in Gainesville this fall.

“Gaining this experience will help me refine my skills, especially in teaching English language learners,” Shields said. “Having the opportunity to work with students in Moultrie will allow me to have a better understanding of differentiating instruction and truly get inside to the everyday life of migrant families.”

This year is exploratory for the College of Education as to how they can best serve in the program, Cantu said. The education students will engage in psychoeducational screening and activities with fellow Brenau students from the Darby School, as well as play interactive games with the children to promote conversation, and lead read alouds.

Laura Cantu has previously attended the trip alongside her husband, Bob Cantu, an associate professor of physical therapy at Brenau. Bob Cantu said about a dozen PT graduate students will make the trip, which does more than just hone professional skills.

“The students are learning to work in interdisciplinary teams, learning how to manage limited time and resources, learning to communicate with patients who speak another language, and enhancing their grasp of cultural competence and humility,” Bob Cantu said. “Also, the students raise all the money needed to go on the trip, so they learn fundraising, entrepreneurship and teamwork.”

Lucinda Grapenthin, assistant professor of psychology and director of the Brenau Center for Counseling and Psychological Services in Norcross, said the two psychology students assess the children’s developmental needs.

“We look for any social, emotional or educational concerns that might be happening with the kids,” Grapenthin said. “We’re also leading activities, playing games, activities that would address things like understanding their emotions, helping them learn how to label their feelings, and teaching coping strategies.”

In the evening, as students from other disciplines practice their clinical skills, Grapenthin said psychology students will talk to the farm workers about self-care and general mental wellness, as well as support for those who are struggling with acute mental health issues.

The Moultrie Farm Workers Family Health Program has occurred annually for almost 30 years. The interdisciplinary health service initiative involves multiple universities and is headed by Emory University