Recently I’ve found my second passion - social work, specifically social work around disability. I had secured a job at the University of Minnesota assisting a research specialist, and heard about the MNLEND Fellowship in a self-advocates committee meeting at work. Right off the bat, I was interested - my great grand uncle had died in the Cambridge State Hospital in 1932 at the age of 18. He had been taken from his home by the Minnesota government; he was institutionalized because he had been having epileptic seizures at school. My grandmother tells me that one summer day, one of my great grand uncle’s siblings, at age 12 or 14 (I can’t remember the exact age), came to visit him at the hospital. The family was too poor to all come and did not have a car, so the brother had to take the bus a few hours away from home. When the brother arrived at the state hospital, my institutionalized great grand uncle cried, begging to go home. He likely died from the abuse that many patients received at state institutions.
So back to the fellowship - What is MNLEND? It stands for the Minnesota Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and related Disabilities. So your next question is probably, What is a neurodevelopmental disability? Neurodevelopmental disabilities happen at birth or shortly after birth, and include autism spectrum disorder, fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, learning disabilities such as ADHD, and intellectual disabilities. The program works to develop leaders in the NDD field. Fellows are trained, one day a week for four hours, to best support youth with NDD and their families. Fellows are also given training and opportunities to support systems, such as the medical field, and policy change.
Since 2009, MNLEND has fostered a partnership between the University of Minnesota’s College of Education + Human Development, Department of Educational Psychology, Institute on Community Integration, University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities, School of Medicine, Department of Pediatrics, and the College of Liberal Arts, Department of Speech Language and Hearing Sciences. Fellows collaborate with each other and departments across fields such as Neurobehavioral development, Child Welfare, genetic counseling, nutrition, social work, and occupational therapy (not to name so many more!).
Before the Fellowship begins, each Fellow participates in a late-August interactive two-day in-person training around person- and family-centered practices (I bet you’re wondering what is person-centered? Person-centered means that a person is treated as a person first, and the disorder they are being treated for comes second and is treated specific to the person. Most doctors are still illness-centered). Sessions happen once a week, on Thursdays from 8am-12pm, for 10 months. Each session features core faculty, guest speakers, and community members, with a range of perspectives. Discussions and activities are part of the fun! There are required weekly pre-session materials to complete beforehand. These pre-materials are assigned as self-paced learning requirements to be completed around Fellows’ schedules. It’s definitely a lot of work, but being able to help other people, specifically those with disabilities, sounds really rewarding!
To apply, I’ve been slowly writing a four-page letter of interest, double spaced in 11-size Times New Roman. I’ve had plenty of time to apply, but tend to procrastinate! The letter of interest includes a one-page project proposal. I’ve come up with quite a detailed project, that comes in three phases:
If you’re interested in the history of the Cambridge State Hospital:
If you’re interested in reading more info about the Fellowship you can go to this link.