Students mentoring youth as part of the Par Fore program.
Students mentoring youth as part of the Par Fore program.

Touro University Nevada Occupational Therapy Students Mentor Youth through Par Fore Program

Students from the School of Occupational Therapy use lessons on the golf course to mentor kids.
Jun 22, 2017

The School of Occupational Therapy wrapped up its first year of the PAR FORE program, an initiative that helps students mentor at-risk youth by teaching them valuable life lessons on the golf course.

The PAR FORE program is the brainchild of Dr. Alex Lopez, Assistant Professor of Occupational Therapy for Touro College in Bay Shore, N.Y. The program, which debuted in 2006, aims to help at-risk youth develop the necessary skills to become functioning members of society while helping them learn constructive behavior on the golf course.

Touro University Nevada adopted the program in 2016 after securing a $10,000 research grant that provided funding for golf clubs, shirts and time on the golf course. The program runs from September through May as students from the School of Occupational Therapy mentor kids from low socioeconomic neighborhoods.

Known as a “gentleman’s game,” the sport helps participants understand the importance of respect and etiquette. Dr. Yvonne Randall, Director of the School of Occupational Therapy at Touro University Nevada, is hoping the lessons learned on the golf course translate to real-life situations. Randall and Dr. Donna Costa, Associate Professor in the School of Occupational Therapy, oversee the program.

“In occupational therapy, you’re working with clients from all socio-economic backgrounds and ability levels,” she said. “Golf is a gentleman’s game, and there are certain rules that need to be followed, including having patience and respect for others. We are hoping these kids will exercise them on and off the course.”

Since the program began in September, OT students in the PAR FORE program have grasped a better understanding of how to mentor kids. Each week, the students and children, who range in age from 12-14 years old, alternate between Desert Pines Golf Course and the Stupak Center where they play games and discuss their issues.

Being able to connect with the children proved to be challenging at first, but the transition grew easier as they built relationships and listened to their problems.

“Our students were deer in the headlights in the beginning. But now, they call the kids out when they’re misbehaving,” Randall said. “These kids come from broken homes. Being there every week helps the kids understand that there are people in their lives who will be there for them. Consistency is a form we try to model in PAR FORE.”

Randall thought the PAR FORE program’s lessons were a perfect fit for her students. The program helps educate students on the importance of social justice, a class they are required to take as part of the OT program. Nearly 10 OT students volunteer each week, though students from the Physician Assistant Studies and Physical Therapy programs have participated as well.

“One of the things I enjoy the most about PAR FORE is the fact that we are very different from these kids,” said Kristina Stewart, OT18. “But even though we are so different, we can still find commonalities in most activities.”

As part of the program, OT students are required to create activities that help the kids better handle their issues. While working with the kids at the Stupak Center, Stewart and her cohorts created a meditation class that helps the kids manage their anger issues through mindfulness and other problem-solving techniques.

“The odds of us being able to change the life of every single kid are not that high, but if we can make an impact on even one of them, we’re doing something right,” Stewart said.

Randall is excited about PAR FORE’s success and the impact her students were able to make in its inaugural year at Touro University Nevada. It’s helped give them a new perspective on life, a pivotal lesson that will benefit them as they begin their careers as occupational therapists.

“Our students have had to deal with the reality of what these kids live with day in and day out,” Randall said. “I’m very happy with how they’ve seamlessly moved into the environment with these kids.”

Learn More About Touro Nevada's OT Program