Rebecca Patterson ’21: Changing Lives a Little at a Time

As a student, Rebecca Patterson ’21 spent a lot of her time trying to make people’s lives better. She was a member of the Student Government Association, the president of the Adopt-a-Grandparent Club, a peer mentor with Student Success and Retention and an orientation leader. It was no surprise, then, that after graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in psychology, the Ledyard, Connecticut, native looked for another opportunity to change people’s lives

She found that opportunity at Sound Community Services, Inc., an organization in New London, Connecticut, that provides comprehensive and integrated services to individuals who have experienced mental illness and substance abuse. Rebecca joined the staff at Sound in June 2021 as a residential recovery specialist, providing oversight to young adults ages 18 to 25 who participate in Sound’s independent apartment program.

“Every day, my team and I assist (as) these clients develop ADL (activities of daily living) skills to prepare them for their own apartments within the community,” Rebecca said. Her role includes assisting as clients clean and maintain their apartments and create meal plans, teaching them how to use public transportation and other community resources and providing medication coaching as needed.

Rebecca is currently acting as the program’s case manager as well, monitoring clients' progress in reaching the goals listed in their treatment plans.

“Their goals range from something as simple as finding a job to something more complex like identifying triggers to develop effective coping skills,” she said, adding that, often, “a little goes a long way” to change a person’s life. “When I began working in Young Adult Services, I noticed many of my clients were transitioning from foster/DCF (Department of Children and Families) care to YAS. Many had never had birthday parties, big Thanksgiving dinners, or presents under a Christmas tree for them. Now we celebrate all holidays and birthdays together,” Rebecca said. “Many more of my clients have never had the ability to decide who they want to be or what they want to do in their life because they grew up in the system. Now that they have a chance, it can be very overwhelming and anxiety inducing, but that's why they have us. We see their successes even when they feel like they’ve failed.”

Rebecca credits her experiences at Colby-Sawyer both in and outside the classroom for preparing her well for her current position. She sees a clear connection between her involvement as a student leader and the work she is doing at Sound, and says she continually draws on what she learned in her psychology classes.

“Peer mentoring and orientation leaders gave me all the skills I needed to help others and the ability to see when someone needs help but is too shy or scared to ask for it,” she said. “(But) I owe it all to my psychology professors, especially Dr. Coy. I took psychopharmacology as an ‘extra’ four credits, but to this day, I still use my notes.”

The outcomes reports from the Harrington Center for Experiential Learning indicate that, like Rebecca, 99% of the Class of 2021 and 100% of the Class of 2022 were employed or in graduate school within six months of graduation. Read more about Colby-Sawyer graduate outcomes.