People with Disabilities and Midwestern Students Twirl the Night Away at the Valentine’s Dance

Annual Dance Leads to Healthcare Experience Outside the Clinic

  • IL - Downers Grove
Group of 18 smiling clinical psychology students at a Valentine’s Dance.
CHS Clin Psych. ’28 from left to right. Front Row: Jack Berens, Andria Davis. Second row: Hannah Ho, Brenda Sladek, Haegan Kent, Colleen O'Finn, Alyson Garcia, Emilia Ollerais, Robin Moscovitch, Hasena Bangash. Third row: Danielle Roehr, Julie Davis, Sierra Maziur, Mackenzie Leroux, Felicity Rondeau, Aleena Samy, Malcolm Edelin.


Midwestern University hosted a Valentine’s dance, also referred to as a prom, for individuals with mental or developmental disabilities. The dance was held in conjunction with the South East Association for Special Parks and Recreation (SEASPAR), Western DuPage Special Recreation Association (WDSRA), WeGo Buddies at West Chicago High School, Midwestern University Student Services along with the College of Health Sciences and College of Graduate Studies Councils and Clinical Psychology class officers. Over 60 Midwestern University students volunteered, and about 120 attended the dance on the Downers Grove Campus.

Participating students highlighted the impact and importance of the event. “Midwestern University is a healthcare school that promotes equality and intersectionality. It is important to have representation in events such as these. The Clinical Psychology program makes up a very small minority of students, but the clients we serve make up a large portion of the general population,” said Samantha Harper (CHS Clin Psych ’27). Samantha added, “I hope the students learned something that will help make them better clinicians for differing populations. I also hope this also brings them a newfound respect for adults with disabilities, their caregivers, and those who work at these wonderful organizations.”

Hannah Ho (CHS Clin Psych ’28) said, “The dance was one of a kind, and I truly felt a part of the community. Not only is it rewarding to give these individuals with disabilities a night of fun, but it was a valuable experience.”

Samantha reflected upon a meaningful moment from the dance. “I met a wonderful woman who recently got engaged after meeting her fiancé at the previous dance. I recently got engaged, and we had almost the exact same engagement ring. We looked at wedding dresses, discussed details, and I even got to meet her future husband. It was amazing to know that at these dances, people have met the love of their lives.” Jack Berens (CHS Clin Psych ’28) added “One couple met on a bus to an earlier version of this dance 11 years ago. They've been married for years now. I'm grateful to savor events and moments like these and to participate in this event because I want to be an informed, compassionate psychologist.”

Samantha detailed the evening further. “I look forward to this every year as a Clinical Psychology student. Our program is responsible for hosting this event, helping find volunteers, and assisting with decorating. I loved dancing with new friends and watching others find so much joy in music, food, dancing, and community.” Hannah added, “We also gave the participants Valentine’s Day cards. Overall, it was a group effort, and I was happy to be a part of it.”

Students also described how this experience fostered by Midwestern University plays a pivotal role in their growth and development. “My role as a future clinical psychologist has been enhanced. In my field, we work with all kinds of individuals. Although I have already had experience with individuals with disabilities, it has been clinical. This dance has allowed me to observe and engage with the same individuals in a more social and relaxed setting. This has given me valuable information that I could not have received in a hospital or clinical setting,” Samantha added.

Hannah elaborated further, “The event gave me some experience to add to my diagnostic practicum and provided me with a new perspective just by interacting with individuals living with disabilities for the night. It gave me firsthand experience with this specific population and more reasons to volunteer for events like this. In addition, it reminded me of the many reasons why I want to be a psychologist and assist individuals who face barriers in their lives.” Hannah continued, “The importance of Midwestern University hosting events like this reveals that we want to contribute to our community and the values of diversity and inclusion.”

The Valentine’s dance is one of many ways Midwestern University contributes to the community, an integral value of a Midwestern University education. Clinical Psychology programs are available in Downers Grove and Glendale. 

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