Learning the Ability in Disability at HMS School

This summer, HMS School welcomed three students from the University of Pennsylvania to take part in an internship opportunity through the university’s Bridging the Gaps (BTG) program. The interns, Gabby Ciancimino, Lizzie McDonald, and Pratyusha Mutyala, were each paired with an HMS School teacher and served as a teacher’s assistant throughout our Extended School Year (ESY) program. During their time with us, Gabby, Lizzie, and Pratyusha were able to assist with recreational activities, lesson plans, and student transportation to therapies. Additionally, this cohort joined and observed students while they participated in physical, speech, and occupational therapy. During weekly meetings with their preceptor, they learned about various aspects of care for the students ranging from feeding needs to their adult transitioning period.

Academic Preceptors:
Zvi D. Gellis, PhD, University of Pennsylvania, School of Social Policy & Practice
Joan I. Gluch, PhD, RDH, PHDHP, University of Pennsylvania, School of Dental Medicine

Community Preceptors:
Laura Boyd, MSW, LSW, Social Worker, HMS School

Meet our Summer 2021 Bridging the Gaps student interns:

Gabby Ciancimino
University of Pennsylvania, School of Dental Medicine

“My summer at HMS only reaffirmed my desires to serve this patient population in my future dental career. There’s no greater joy than finding your niche and discovering opportunities to grow and learn in environments that drive those passions; HMS did just that for me. The staff were extraordinary role models in displaying what it takes to effectively care for students with cerebral palsy, and the students taught me more about patience, communication, and cultural humility than I could have ever imagined. I am so grateful I got to share in the student’s successes and happiness as they persevered towards their goals this summer. In an effort to become the best versions of themselves, I grew closer in becoming the best version of myself. This experience has given me momentum going into my second year of dental school, as my passions were fueled to be the future dentist and friend they all deserve.”

Read more about Gabby’s HMS School experience here.

Pratyusha Mutyala
University of Pennsylvania, School of Dental Medicine

“The HMS School is an extraordinary place for children with special needs. The way the school is dedicated to honing on each child’s strengths and uniqueness to educate and empower is truly commendable. From speech, occupational, and physical therapies to various enrichment activities, the students at HMS have a holistic and nurturing school experience. All of the teachers, therapists, nurses, social workers, and families at HMS have a heart of gold. I’ve learned so much from each and every one of them. During my time at HMS, I’ve grown in how I perceive individuals with disabilities. I now see the potential they have to accomplish amazing things out in the world. Each child at HMS has an awe-inspiring story and special journey. I hope to continue on this journey with them as an advocate and friend, and carry all that I’ve learned through my future career and beyond.”

Read more about Pratyusha’s HMS experience here.

Lizzie McDonald
University of Pennsylvania, School of Social Policy and Practice

“I feel so lucky to have been placed at HMS School and to have been welcomed into the community by the staff and students. HMS is a joyful place where every student is seen as an individual with needs, desires, and potential. I enjoyed watching how the staff individualized the learning experience to each child to ensure their needs were being met, and I learned so much from both the staff and students on how to communicate with the students and guarantee they have an enriching learning experience at school. Working at HMS was not only a great professional experience, but it provided me amazing life experience and insight into how to work with this community. I’m leaving the internship excited to continue advocating for people with cerebral palsy and hopeful that I can stay involved at the school.”

Read more about Lizzie’s HMS experience here.

More about Bridge the Gaps (BTG) at the University of Pennsylvania: The BTG program, part of the Perelman School of Medicine, links the training of health and social service professionals with the provision of health-related services for underserved and economically disadvantaged populations. BTG Community Health Internship Program (CHIP) is a paid community-based summer internship program that helps students gain a broader understanding of the factors that affect health in underserved and economically disadvantaged communities. The internship offers students in the health and social services fields an opportunity for interdisciplinary collaboration. Students are matched with approximately 100 nonprofit community partners in Philadelphia, Erie, Pittsburgh, and the Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania, and in New Jersey. Student teams collaborate with community site personnel, community members and faculty to design projects based on community-defined needs and on the students’ professional disciplines and interests.