SJC Long Island alumna Alyson Lauriguet didn’t always plan on majoring in therapeutic recreation. But now, the 2017 graduate is working her dream job as the director of life enrichment and memory care at the Village Walk Senior Living in Patchogue.
“I always thought I wanted to go to school for teaching until I was a senior in high school,” said Lauriguet, a 2013 graduate of West Islip High School. “I had a dance teacher who attended St. Joseph’s for therapeutic recreation. After hearing her stories and researching the field, I instantly knew this is what I wanted to do.”
And Lauriguet has never doubted that she ended up working in the right field.
“I originally wanted to work with individuals in a psychiatric setting, until I volunteered at an assisted living community and fell in love with the geriatric population,” she said.
Working with Passion
Lauriguet, who’s responsible for all the events and programming that take place at the Village Walk, says that her favorite aspect of her job is that every day offers a different experience.
“I get the opportunity to learn so many new things every day, and there is no such thing as a ‘boring day at work’ for me,” Lauriguet, 25, said. “Something else that I love about working here is the relationships I develop with the residents. I am blessed to have a lot of hands-on time with the residents, and they have all become members of my family.”
In fact, Lauriguet had the chance last month to reunite two new members of the Village Walk community, resident Annadele Kleinert and her beloved dog Dolly. The two had been separated for a couple of months while Kleinert recovered from a broken shoulder in a rehabilitation center.
“Seeing Annadele’s response to Dolly was so special to be a part of, especially with all of the craziness that we’ve all be going through the past year,” Lauriguet said. “It was great to see and be a part of something so positive. It was so amazing to see her reaction when she saw Dolly walking down the hallway as she entered the community, and also to be able to see Dolly’s eyes light up and her tail start wagging as soon as she was reunited with her owner! “
Getting Inspired at St. Joseph’s
As a student at SJC Long Island, Lauriguet was inspired by Gail Lamberta, Ph.D., professor and chair of the College’s Recreation and Leisure Studies Department, and Lorraine Lubicich, assistant professor of recreation and leisure studies.
“They both had so much knowledge in different aspects of the therapeutic recreation field and were the type of professors that really wanted to see you succeed,” the West Islip resident said. “Gail and Lorraine made teaching so personal, and that is what I feel really pushed me to always do my best.
“Even after graduating and working in the field for the last few years, Gail and Lorraine continue to reach out to me with opportunities to further my education, whether it be speaking to a class, attending a conference, working with interns, or being just a call/text/email away with a question,” Lauriguet added. “They are still a great support system I am thankful to have.”
For students considering a career in the field of therapeutic recreation, Lauriguet recommends looking outside the classroom and textbooks for experience.
“Make the most out of your site visits and volunteer hours,” she said. “If you don’t think a certain population is for you, try another. I was set on the fact that I wanted to work with children in a psychiatric setting until I completed my volunteer hours in an assisted living facility. After less than a week working with seniors, I knew this is where I wanted to be and where I could truly make a difference in someone’s life.”