Lauren Zuk Helps Children and Parents Build on Strengths, Celebrate Success!
California native Lauren Zuk has lived in Richmond for almost 15 years, beginning as a student at the University of Richmond where her studies were centered on education and English. When Lauren began her career as a secondary English teacher, she believed that would be her “forever” job. Later she received an unexpected special education assignment, and that experience led to an exciting vocational change.
“I fell in love with helping young people learn to communicate and connect with others,” she recalls. “As it turns out, I discovered there’s a job for that!” Lauren was accepted into James Madison University’s part-time, online program to become a Speech-Language Pathologist. Her internship at SOAR365 is an important step in expanding her teaching skills and fulfilling academic requirements.
Lauren was initially drawn to SOAR365 when she learned how we support adults with disabilities in the workplace. “As a teacher, I spent most of my time working with older students and young adults with special needs,” she said, “and I especially enjoyed coaching high school students and young adults in a vocational education program. It was a valuable experience for the students as well as their parents, especially when they learned that it is indeed possible for a child with a disability to enter the workforce!”
Lauren’s SOAR365 internship focuses on helping young children develop communication skills that will be beneficial as they grow older and eventually explore job opportunities. She knows that parents experience a lot of joy during the infant and toddler years as they balance the many challenges of nurturing a child with special needs.
“I have enjoyed every aspect of my role as a Speech-Language Pathology intern at SOAR365,” says Lauren. “In Early Intervention we work with infants and toddlers who have developmental delays or disabilities that impact their speech or language, and we coach their parents on how to best support each child’s communication needs. I love working with these fun, amazing little people and their parents. Helping caregivers find ways to capitalize on their child’s strengths and celebrate their successes has been amazing. And we get to do all that in the context of play!”
Outside school, Lauren is plenty busy working part-time (currently as the event manager at a local inn) and spending time with her husband Mike. “I love to stay inside reading and crocheting, but also venture outside to hike and lounge by the river,” she says.
Lauren is looking forward to the next phase of her teaching career: “Being a graduate student has had its challenges, but I love this field and can’t wait to join it officially!”
Megan Pesci Teaches … and Learns … in Therapy Sessions
Pediatric Therapy intern Megan Pesci was drawn to SOAR365 because of her personal experience and the respected, high-quality early intervention services that SOAR365 provides. A third-year doctoral student in VCU’s Occupational Therapy program, Megan is the sister of a young adult with autism.
“I was very impressed with all the services that SOAR365 has to offer,” says Megan. “I could tell this is a special organization off the bat, and I feel very lucky to have had the opportunity to intern here.”
Megan is a level-two fieldwork student and has been working alongside Erin Whitman, a SOAR365 Occupational Therapist. “Erin has been wonderful in explaining the early intervention OT services, and I have had the opportunity to lead treatment sessions with her supervision,” she said. “I have really enjoyed getting to know the families and seeing their little ones grow and achieve their goals.”
Originally from Indiana, PA, a small college town outside of Pittsburgh, Megan earned her undergraduate degree in exercise science with a minor in special education from Slippery Rock University. She moved to Richmond in 2021 to attend VCU’s OT school and has fallen in love with the area. “In my free time I enjoy cooking, exercising, and exploring all the things RVA has to offer,” she says, “as well as spending time with friends and family.”