The Experience of a Lifetime

Riding in a taxi on her way to campus, Kaitlin Phelan was suddenly surprised. The driver was commending her for her noble work as a Campus School volunteer, noting that her time there must be very sad. The word sad hung in the air, a jarring and inaccurate modifier. To Kaitlin, describing the Campus School as a sad place seemed unthinkable.

The truth is, for her and many students, staff and volunteers, the Campus School is one of the most joyful places Kaitlin could imagine, a place where differences are embraced and celebrated—and the Boston College community is starting to catch on. This past year, over 400 students signed up as members.

Kaitlin had discovered the Campus School two years before that taxi ride, during her sophomore summer. Her experiences as a volunteer—laughing with students, assisting with physical therapy and learning how to adjust oxygen levels—would completely transform her life and career path.

Kaitlin Phelan with a Campus School Student

“It’s something I’ve never experienced anywhere else—at hospitals or even other schools—something intangible but palpable. You can really feel the love. It’s more than wanting to help—it’s passion and real friendships.”

After graduating from the Boston College nursing program, Kaitlin decided to dedicate her career to working with children who experience complex challenges and have unique health care needs.

Kaitlin always knew she wanted to help children with special needs, but she never could have imagined the impact the Campus School would have on her. By discovering each student’s unique communication style, she gleaned important lessons: how to perceive and make effective use of nonverbal gestures, how to make every interaction meaningful and, as she puts it, how to listen with her heart.

Now Kaitlin is taking these learnings beyond campus: She plans to pursue a career as a registered nurse, working with children with multiple disabilities and helping others uncover the magic of nonverbal communication.

“I will be an advocate for this population for the rest of my life,” she said.