Haleigh Black received so much support when her mother was diagnosed with brain cancer, she now serves to pass on support and hope to families navigating similar experiences.
“I love being able to connect with the families,” Black said.
Black, from Chatham Illinois, is studying for her master’s in Speech-Language Pathology in the Department of Audiology and Speech Pathology in Knoxville, in the UTHSC College of Health Professions. While working toward her goal of becoming a speech language pathologist, she serves in Inheritance of Hope, a nonprofit organization providing resources and creating relationships for young families facing the loss of a parent due to terminal illnesses.
“My family was served by them in 2014. My mom was diagnosed with brain cancer, and we went on a retreat with them,” she said. “I saw the connections that my parents made with other families, and I was able to make relationships with other children. I knew it was an organization that I wanted to come back and be a part of once I felt old enough.”
In 2017, Black returned to the nonprofit, serving for six years, including in her role as a Head Legacy Video Coach for the nonprofit’s Legacy Video program. The team helps families to create video recordings of their life stories.
“I became interested in helping with this because my mom created one for me, but we always say that anyone can record a legacy video, and everyone should record a legacy video,” she said. “For those who register, I set up a Zoom meeting and help talk them through what they want to say, I ask questions about their lives, and help them create this gift for their family.”
Black said her service with Inheritance of Hope has increased her emotional sensitivity, helping her with her clinical experience in the Speech-Language Pathology program.
“I interact with a lot of families experiencing a terminal diagnosis, such as brain cancer and ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis), which both have communication difficulties, and what I have learned in school has really helped me communicate with them better on retreats and recording legacy videos,” she said. “But also, my work with these families through Inheritance of Hope has helped me grow with being able to connect, understand, and have that emotional sensitivity with them that I have carried over into my clinical experiences while working with families and clients.”
As the end of her years in the Speech-Language Pathology program approaches this month, she looks forward to starting her clinical fellowship year working in pediatrics in Knoxville.
“I am excited to start in September. I absolutely love working in pediatrics and connecting with families,” she said.
Before arriving at UTHSC, she earned her bachelor’s in Speech and Hearing Science at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. After hearing of UTHSC and researching its programs, the speech-pathology program stood out to her.
“I fell in love with what UTHSC had to offer for their speech program. I thought they offered many different clinical experiences, and I was excited to get away from the Midwest and see Tennessee,” she said.
She said it has been eye-opening to discover the range of areas for speech pathologists to pursue. “I think that realizing how many different areas we can work in to help people of all ages has probably been the most eye-opening for me,” she said.
In addition, she noted the great experience in the program and how beneficial it has been to connect with faculty and clinical faculty.
“It’s really helpful that we have a range of faculty, especially those who are specialized in different clinical backgrounds,” she said. “Having the opportunity to spend a semester with each of the clinical faculty has really helped me grow my knowledge in each area, and they are always there to answer our questions and offer advice in ways that gives a different experience than an undergrad program.”