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New OTD graduate joins Country Roads staff after creating peer mentor workbook for capstone project

Taylor Grout joins the program in the fall as an instructor and consultant

New OTD graduate joins Country Roads staff after creating peer mentor workbook for capstone project

A graduate of the West Virginia University School of Medicine is building on her educational experience in her new job.

Each year during their last semester, students in the WVU School of Medicine Occupational Therapy Doctorate (OTD) program complete a 560-hour capstone project consisting of self-directed learning.

One of the new OTD graduates, Taylor Grout, partnered with the Country Roads program at the WVU Center for Excellence in Disabilities for her capstone, developing a workbook for volunteer peer mentors to better assist the program’s students who have intellectual and/or developmental disabilities.

The goal of the Country Roads program is to prepare students with disabilities for independence by providing academic courses, social engagement and real-world work experiences. Students live in shared residential housing, participate in social activities across campus and receive career education and training.

“I think the Country Roads program is phenomenal and it’s so needed,” Grout said. “I think a lot of times in occupational therapy and, in general, by the time students hit middle school and high school they’re kind of transitioning out of therapy because there’s not as much benefit anymore with different aspects of it, but there’s still the whole social piece with transitioning.

“They don’t just stop existing after high school — they have to go somewhere. Many of them have a lot of skills and so much potential, you just need to meet them where they are.”

Grout spent time last year shadowing occupational therapy assistant professor Jacob Greenfield, OTD, OTR/L during the independent living classes that he teaches as a Country Roads instructor. She helped plan and teach some of those classes this year as part of her OTD capstone experience.

“When the time came to pick my capstone project, I talked with Jacob Greenfield and Dr. Amy Burt (occupational therapist, assistant professor and LEND training specialist) about what I wanted to do. Dr. Burt suggested developing a workbook to assist the peer mentors who work with the Country Roads students,” Grout said.

The Country Roads program utilizes peer mentor volunteers to help students adjust to campus life. These mentors receive extensive training through the program. Grout’s workbook goes into greater depth to help mentors ensure the participants develop the skills needed to become successful college students.

“The workbook is about 60 pages and broken into four sections,” Grout explained. “I focused on dorm life like doing laundry, going to dining halls, that sort of thing, and also the skills it would take for them to transition into living in an apartment on their own if they choose to do that. There is a section on social life that focuses on dating, friendships, going out on High Street, and what a typical college social experience entails.”

She brought first-hand experience to her capstone project, having served as a Country Roads peer mentor last year.

“The students actually taught me how to take the bus and ride the PRT,” said Grout, who previously attended Missouri State University. “It has been so great to see that group progress since I’ve been working with them for two years now. They probably taught me more than I taught them.”

Growing up near St. Louis, Grout had only been to West Virginia once before moving here for the OTD program. Having now earned her doctorate, she intends to stay in the Mountain State and will be joining the Country Roads staff as both an instructor and a consultant.

“I feel like the people who have had the most impact on my life are the ones who helped me through my transitions, so if I can find a way to make a job out of something similar while working with this age group, that’s my dream job and my dream goal with all of this,” she said.

Peer mentors are current WVU students who volunteer their time, which can often count towards internships, practicum, training or service hours.

Anyone interested in learning more about the Country Roads program or becoming a peer mentor can reach out to or call the CED at 304-293-4692.