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Staying ahead of the game

Bethany Crum Story
Bethany Crum

When Bethany Crum entered kindergarten, she immediately advanced to first grade. She continued to excel throughout elementary school. In eighth grade she was planning her life.

"I was planning where I wanted to go to school, what I wanted to do. I planned where I wanted to live. I was just starting to figure things out," Crum said.

Before she started 11th grade, she had mapped out her career path.

"My sister is an occupational therapist, and she said, ‘Just shadow someone from my job.' So I ended up shadowing a speech pathologist for half a day and fell in love with it," Crum said. "I knew I had found what I wanted to do."

In 12th grade, she was participating in Harrisburg Area Community College's dual enrollment program. As she accepted her high school diploma, she already had 25 college credits under her belt. Keenly focused on her future, Crum applied to Clarion University after researching schools reputed for their speech pathology programs.

When she visited campus, she found that Clarion fit perfectly, not only academically, but also personally.

A self-described small-town girl, Crum wanted to attend a school with a more intimate feel, and Clarion met that need.

"I met the professors in the speech pathology program and Hallie Savage in the honors program, and I really liked them," she said. "I met different students on campus, and at that point I knew I had made the right decision."

She wanted to continue to stay ahead, with a goal of wrapping up her bachelor's degree in three years. With the help of her advisor, she's on track to meet her self-imposed deadline.

By the end of her first semester, Crum had already emerged as a leader, serving as resident assistant for her floor in Wilkinson Hall.

While Crum is devoted to leading other students, she remains focused on her academic work. She is a dean's list student, and she has taken opportunities in Clarion to sit in on speech pathology therapy sessions and to shadow a speech pathologist.

"I like to stay involved, I like to stay busy," Crum said. She said organization is key to keeping on top of her full schedule.

"I'm a sticky note-aholic. I color coordinate. I have lines of different colored sticky notes of things I have to take care of. It gets updated every day. My whole room is sticky-noted," Crum said. "I like to have everything planned in advance. According to my father, ‘Fifteen minutes early is on time, on time is late, and late is unacceptable.' It was ingrained into my brain."

Crum's family played a big part in shaping her values before she came to Clarion. On campus, she finds inspiration in Hallie Savage.

"I can go to her with any problem, and she's always there to listen and to guide me through it," Crum said. "She brought me back to focus on the here and now. I feel like no matter what, I can go and talk to her, which I especially like because my family isn't right here."

The summer is busy for Crum, too, working as an aide to a teenage girl with Rett Syndrome.

"I spend three days a week with her, working 12-hour shifts. Noelle is a very happy girl, all smiles and giggles," Crum said. "What is important to understand is that she can't communicate except through some random eye motions and head tosses, and she can't really move, so it requires a lot of hands-on lifting."

Crum is involved with Noelle's therapy, working with the girl's family using different techniques to help her communicate with aides, nurses, family and friends.

"Noelle is very intelligent and can understand what we're saying, but she is trapped in her body and can't communicate back with us," she said.

"The current option that we are trying to focus on and use more is the ‘yes-no hands' technique. We cup her face then move our hands about an inch away and ask her a question. We tap her right cheek and say ‘yes,' then take a breath and tap her left cheek and say ‘no.' Noelle will then toss her head into the correct hand as a response," Crum said.

Crum keeps Noelle socially active with outings to the mall, the movies, the pool and Hershey Park. She helps to stimulate Noelle intellectually by reading stories, playing with musical instruments and interacting with her to compose letters to her favorite musicians and actors.

In addition to working with Noelle, Crum is employed at a Subway sandwich shop in Harrisburg, where she has worked since 2009.

After finishing her bachelor's degree, Crum plans to remain at Clarion to complete her graduate studies.