The New England Center for Children (NECC), a school for children diagnosed with autism, has a long-standing close relationship with Hamilton College. NECC was founded by Hamilton alumnus, Vincent Strully Jr. ’69, who serves as chief executive officer. Each semester, students interested in education and psychology work and take courses there as part of Hamilton’s cooperative education program, managed by James L. Ferguson Professor of Psychology Jonathan Vaughan. Rosmery Rodriguez ’15 is interning as a full-time teacher with the Center’s students this summer.
The NECC, located in Southborough, Mass., just outside of Boston, is an elementary and secondary school that aims to provide children diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder with the teaching and life skills they need to increase their independence. The school is known for its research on and application of applied behavioral analysis. Rodriguez commented, “The school is extremely organized, especially in personalizing each student's curriculum to fit his or her individual needs. No student with an autism spectrum disorder is the same, and NECC does an excellent job tailoring to the students' unique needs, regardless of age or gender.”
Rodriguez’s internship at NECC is building off previous experience working with both children and adults with disabilities. Through Hamilton’s Introduction to Disabilities class, she volunteered at the Kelberman Center and Upstate Cerebral Palsy in Utica, working primarily with people with autism spectrum disorders. She first encountered NECC during a field trip with her psychology class. She described the effects of her visit, saying, “After visiting the site, I fell in love with the environment and the research NECC takes a part of.” When she found out that NECC offers summer internships, she knew she wanted to work there.
As a full-time intern, Rodriguez works as a teacher, applying NECC’s philosophy of individualized and evidence-based teaching. She explained, “I’m expected to know and be able to teach each student their own individualized programs while adapting my interaction depending on the student and the situation at any given time.” Rodriguez is also able to conduct her own research, collecting data while interacting with the students. She then applies her analysis to determine in which areas a student might need more assistance.
Rodriguez has found working closely with the students to be one of the most rewarding parts of her job. She noted, “It amazes me everyday how the students accommodate to their environment, and I love how I am truly getting to know the students,” she said. “While each child is different, it is those differences that make them special and a joy to work with.”
Rodriguez has yet to decide what she would like to do after graduation, but she hopes that her internship at NECC will help her to narrow down her choices. She hopes to apply her psychology major to her future work, and after her internship, she is considering continuing in a similar environment. Her internship is supported by the Christine Bell Vilsack ’72 Internship Fund, through Hamilton’s Career Center.
Rodriguez is a graduate of Frederick Douglass Academy in New York City.