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Little Flower Youth Visit Stony Brook University

Little flower

The University and Hospital Community Relations Office at Stony Brook University welcomed nearly 20 students from the Little Flower Union Free School District in Wading River to Stony Brook’s campus on December 2, 2022. 

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Maria Hensley-Spera, clinical instructor of psychiatry at the Renaissance School of Medicine and field supervisor at the School of Social Welfare, speaks to Little Flower students.

Little Flower is the only residential Special Act public school district on Long Island and supports students with unique educational needs. Many students live in cottages at the Wading River campus as part of the Little Flower Children and Family Services of New York’s residential treatment center, while other students attend the school during the day. The field trip offered students an opportunity to see a college campus in action, learn about educational opportunities and hear from faculty and staff.

“It was a pleasure hosting Little Flower at Stony Brook,” said Erika Karp, community relations representative for Stony Brook University Hospital, who coordinated the visit. “We hope the students felt inspired and motivated to achieve their goals.” 

Maria Hensley-Spera, clinical instructor of psychiatry at the Renaissance School of Medicine and field supervisor at the School of Social Welfare, delivered an encouraging and engaging presentation about adversity, resiliency and the characteristics of success. 

Hensley-Spera, who at 18 years old became a paraplegic after a severe car accident, discussed her own journey overcoming adversity and encouraged the students to consider what happens “when adversity overcomes who we are rather than being our defining moment.” For the Little Flower students, some of whom are in foster care or are experiencing educational, developmental or behavioral challenges, the sentiment stuck.

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Students from Little Flower Union Free School District in Wading River take a tour of Stony Brook University.

Hensley-Spera, who was joined by Stony Brook MSW students Alexis Sakil, Francesca Salvati and Jenny De La Nuez, reminded the students to think about whether their choices will provide them with opportunity, freedom and/or self-respect, and encouraged the students to discuss how they react in potentially frustrating situations. The students recognized how it is often easier to react with one’s emotional brain rather than their logical brain. In addition, the students shared future goals such as graduating, enrolling in college and getting first jobs. 

Following the presentation, the students enjoyed lunch at the Student Activities Center and toured Stony Brook’s campus, stopping at landmarks such as the Student Union, Staller Steps and Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium. 

Throughout the year, the University and Hospital Community Relations Office welcomes hundreds of students, educators and community groups to Stony Brook. Programming can be adapted to different ages, abilities, interests and needs. For more information, email Community Relations Representative Erika Karp at erika.karp@stonybrook.edu

Erika Karp

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