Redwood trees evoke different memories for different people, from Stanford University’s logo to summer camping trips in Sequoia National Park. For Avenlea Gamble ’16, ’17 redwoods remind her of home. Gamble is from Willits, California, the small city located in Mendocino County, 35 miles east of Fort Bragg, known as the “Gateway to the Redwoods.” The first time she stepped on the Pacific campus she felt at home.
In May, Gamble completed her bachelor of science in speech-language pathology (SLP) at Pacific and is now starting the graduate program. “I knew I always wanted to go into some kind of therapy,” said Gamble. “In high school I was torn between occupational therapy and speech-language pathology.” The opportunity to shadow a speech-language pathologist helped her decide which career path to follow.
Her advice for those starting the SLP program, either as an undergraduate or graduate student, is to connect with the faculty. “Definitely talk to your faculty inside and outside of class. They are such great resources and are very well known in the field.” She expressed that she aspires to follow in their footsteps. She adds, “This is an incredible community of very intelligent and very passionate individuals, I’m so glad to be a part of it.” She adds, “Being a Pacific Tiger has given me a life-long community of friends and colleagues.” The positive experience she has had as a Pacific Tiger has even changed the way she thinks about the color orange.
Gamble was selected by the SLP faculty to be the recipient of the Virginia Puich Endowed Scholarship, which recognizes clinical and academic excellence. Emerita faculty member Virginia Puich, MS served as department chair from 1987 until her retirement in 1993. Her focus on clinical training helped shape the SLP program at Pacific into what is today. “She was a big catalyst for where we are now,” says Gamble. She is honored to have been chosen as the recipient of this scholarship. “To think they saw even a fraction of her in me. It is incredible to know they view me in the same light.” She adds, “Having the support from all different areas of my life is one of the reasons I am here today.”
Gamble is a member of Omega Eta Epsilon, a Greek-letter honor society unique to Pacific. “We focus on increasing literacy,” explains Gamble. Founded in 2011, Omega Eta Epsilon is open to students who are majoring or minoring in any language, as well as those studying SLP. “We are a very eclectic group; English majors, speech-language pathology majors and others who have a passion for linguistics.” Illiteracy can have a profound impact on an individual both socially and professionally. She sees an urgent need for literacy programs in the San Joaquin County; she believes that Pacific students help meet that need by hosting outreach events and organizing book drives.
Gamble believes in the concept of paying it forward. Upon graduating she plans to return to her hometown where there is a shortage of speech-language pathologists. “I would like to work in the medical setting, either a hospital or skilled nursing facility.” Her passion is for helping those with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease regain language skills. She elaborates, “To speak, to introduce themselves, to have those normal day-to-day conversations.”
By Anne Marie H. Bergthold