She began to see firsthand how the connections she has made at Emmanuel—and then beyond—have affected the course of her academic and career trajectory, each opportunity opening a door to the next.
A psychology major with a concentration in counseling & health, Erlacher began her academic career with the impression that her work opportunities might be confined to a certain type of job. But after a volunteering opportunity at one of Emmanuel's neighboring medical institutions, Erlacher began to think otherwise, the scope of her possibilities expanding before her.
During her sophomore year at Emmanuel, Erlacher volunteered in the oncology unit at Boston Children's Hospital. There, she met a specialist who introduced her to the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp in Erlacher's native Connecticut. Erlacher learned that the Camp was looking for another counselor for the summer, and with the deadline for applications fast approaching, she didn't want to risk missing the opportunity. Erlacher applied and got the job, and even after securing a role for the summer, she didn't quite know what to expect with an eight-week assignment at the sleepaway camp. Certainly, she didn't expect the experience would inspire the course of her career.
Founded by Paul Newman in 1988, The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp is an organization that ensures that children with serious medical conditions have the opportunity to experience summer camp and discover "a different kind of healing." Counselors at the Camp are selected for their experience, enthusiasm and empathy, and receive training in safety, the medical issues affecting campers, child development, behavior techniques and cultural awareness. While the Camp empowered Erlacher to work for a cause that inspires her, she also gained some very useful counseling skills along the way. Propelling her even further, Erlacher established yet another connection at the Camp that lead her back to Boston Children's Hospital the following summer, just before her senior year. It was this connection that helped Erlacher secure an internship in the Pediatric Transplant Center—a position she maintained into the fall semester.
I knew it was going to be an amazing experience," Erlacher said. "It's a job that people dream of having."
In the Pediatric Transplant Center, Erlacher supports the team's lead psychologist in counseling transplant patients while also managing research data, and most importantly, making a positive impact on patients' well-being during their often-extended stays. Erlacher also assists in surveying patients and their families to gauge their well-being pre and post operation, fielding comments and concerns regarding patient comfort, hospital experience, and overall wellness.
"My favorite aspect about the work that I do is the affect that I have on people," Erlacher said. "I love knowing that I'm helping people and doing anything I can to help them feel better or happier."
Additionally, Erlacher assists in ensuring that patients understand certain risks in behaviors like drinking alcohol and smoking tobacco post-transplant. The research that supports these risk factors has inspired Erlacher to continue researching post-transplant risks for adolescents, which she plans to explore in her senior thesis.
Erlacher attributes her success in her field thus far as being Emmanuel-exclusive; in addition to having access to renowned neighboring medical institutions, the College's size and tight-knit community has enabled Erlacher to receive both instruction and mentorship from her professors.
"If I had chosen another school, I would not have had the same opportunities that I have today," Erlacher said.
After graduation, Erlacher hopes to continue counseling children in a hospital setting.