The Ohio State University at Newark

Ohio State Newark Students Award Grant to PBJ Connections

NEWARK, OH, Jan. 22, 2018 — The next member of the mental health therapy team may have four legs, and students at The Ohio State University at Newark are working to support them. Students from the Cultures of Professional Writing class (English 4150) recently awarded a $250 grant to PBJ Connections in support of their dressage program in Pataskala. PBJ provides equine-assisted therapy to individuals and families working on mental health, behavioral and communication issues. It is also a partner agency of the United Way of Licking County.

Students in the class, taught by Professor of English Elizabeth Weiser, Ph.D., practice their real-world writing skills by submitting grant proposals for local nonprofit organizations. Each proposal then competes for actual funding, underwritten by Weiser. The students themselves are the judging panel, determining a winner based on which proposal is the best written and most persuasive. Kim Lemon wrote this year’s winning proposal.

“I love this assignment because it makes students’ writing matter,” said Weiser. “These are real grant proposals for real, life-changing organizations. Students get off campus, talk directly to the staff of participating agencies, and then write their proposals. Being the person who can write and persuade donors to share their wealth not only makes students more employable, but it also means they have an invaluable skill they can share with good causes throughout their life.”

For Lemon, a senior English major at Ohio State Newark, PBJ Connections was an easy choice for her grant-writing skills. Having grown up around horses, she immediately saw the value of their work.

“Horses will immediately react to you, but they are also forgiving,” she notes. PBJ sessions focus on emotional awareness and behavioral management, and clients learn how their behaviors affect their feelings and the feelings of others. Many clients are young people struggling with mental, behavioral or emotional issues and traumas. Equine therapy helps them gain insights while it also fosters resilience and creativity.

Photo caption: Kim Lemon (left) and Erica Lewis, Assistant Director of PBJ Connections

Lemon wrote in her proposal about a child with selective mutism for whom traditional talk therapy was impossible. “During one session, Jake and his mother had to figure out how to lead one of the horses through the massive obstacle course they'd created using hoola-hoops, ground poles, and any other objects they could find in the arena. They tried yelling at the horse, they tried coaxing it, but it was only when they worked together and Jake dismantled the pool noodle wall he'd built around his end of the arena that they were successful in guiding the horse through. The obstacle course they'd created was a metaphor for their communication difficulties. By the end of the session, Jake was finally able to communicate with his therapists using simple word phrases, something he'd never been able to do previously.”

PBJ follows the Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association’s model for team-based equine therapy to improve the quality of life and mental health of a variety of clients. Mental health professionals, equine specialists and horses all work together in a solution-oriented model. In addition to their therapy work, PBJ Connections is also a proud participant in Equine Assisted Therapy research conducted in partnership with Ohio State's College of Social Work. PBJ has worked with Ohio State conducting research into the impact of equine therapy on patients with dementia and Alzheimer's, and is also part of Ohio State's human-animal bond campaign, which seeks to study the impact of animals on people and vice-versa.

The Ohio State University at Newark offers an academic environment that is inclusive of diversity, challenging but supportive with world-renowned professors and access to Ohio State’s more than 200 majors. It is where learning comes to life. Research, study abroad and service learning opportunities prepare students for their careers in ways they never expected.