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HST students turn passion for helping others into their professional pursuits

The Human Services Technology program at Ohio University-Chillicothe has long been molding students to lend a helping hand to those who need assistance with the everyday curve balls life throws. Students in this field are typically described as empathetic and able to relate to the struggles of individuals.

"I have always been a people person and enjoy being able to help others," said Ann Hamilton, a current HST student. "If I can help someone to have a better life, then my life is also better."

Other students need clarification from a trusted professor to reassure their choice of an HST major.

"Early in my first quarter, our professor asked us which of us were the ones our families and friends go to when they needed advice and help and most of the class raised their hands," said Adam Young, an HST alumnus. "That helped me understand why I gravitated towards that program in the first place."

With the unstable economy, the Associate in Applied Science degree in HST is very valuable, said Barbara Mahaffey, Ph.D., Associate Assistant Professor and Regional Coordinator/Program Coordinator of Human Services Technology.

The program at OU-C is staffed by two full-time faculty members, Barbara Mahaffey and Mary Jane Preece, who hold doctoral degrees, well as adjunct faculty members who are practitioners in the field.

"The job market is expanding throughout the United States," said Mahaffey. "I have heard from various college representatives from counseling and social work programs who want to recruit the graduates of HST."

The HST program has courses designed to provide a general education for helping professionals.

Students learn crisis and intervention strategies, case management skills, group dynamics, ethical, legal, and professional expectations, behavior management, and chemical dependency intervention techniques. During their second year, students also spend two semesters in "practicum" and work in human and social service or corrections facilities for on the job training.

"I feel that the HST degree will give me the training and direction that I need to be more marketable in the job market," said Hamilton.

"It gave me the opportunity to get out and sort of feel it a little more through the practicum hours that we had to do," said Young. "Through that experience, I got to volunteer at the women's shelter, the domestic violence office actually and the men's homeless shelter." 

The Human Service Technology students are encouraged to become community minded from the start.

"They set a goal of completing a community service project per term when the Human Services Association student club started in fall 2005," said Mahaffey. "The students have held fund raisers and community awareness events for veterans and social service agencies that serve children and adults."

"I volunteer at a woman and children shelter two days a week," said Hamilton. "Our HST organization did a spaghetti dinner fund raiser for one of our student's family after her unexpected death to help cover her funeral expenses."

The projects have varied over the years which have included events such as car shows and game days while others have involved community clothing, food, and household belongings collections.

"Our HST program just had our annual OU-C Trick or Treat Extravaganza (TOTE) and it was very successful," said Hamilton. "We donated all of the canned food we took in for admission to local food pantries and coats to those in need."

"Students have supported each other by raising awareness for mental health services and the advocacy needs for children," said Mahaffey. "For example, students gave over $ 1,000 to the Ross County Mental Health Association who then in turn, will award those monies in the form of two scholarships to the Human Services Association sophomore students."

"I make a point in life, no matter where I'm at, to help people," said Deborah Honea, another honor student currently enrolled in the HST program. "I'm about paying attention to people and doing everything I can to benefit others."

Students in the Human Services Technology program earn an Associate in Applied Sciences degree and are encouraged by the HST faculty to continue for additional college degree. Students typically continue to complete these four-year degree paths: Social Work, Technical Applied Studies, Specialized Studies, Health Services Association, Criminal Justice, Psychology, Sociology and Communication Studies. Some students are advised to continue on for a Master degree in Education in counseling or Social Work.

There are more than 60 different job titles and many career paths which include Chemical Dependency Counselors, Social Work Assistants and other degree progressions that eventually lead to possible certificates or licensure in counseling or social work.

I've always wanted to work with kids so I thought that [an HST degree] was the best path to get there," said Young. "HST gives you the building the blocks for no matter which direction you want to go."

Throughout all of the schooling, students remember the reason they chose this career path is to make a difference.

"I make a point in life, no matter where I'm at, to help people," said Honea. "I'm about paying attention to people and doing everything I can to benefit others."