Saki Iwamoto '10 dreamed of being a child life specialist - a uniquely-trained member of a health care team who helps children deal with the unique developmental, emotional, social, and educational needs they face when they or their family members are engaged in medical treatment. Saki did not view Japan's lack of professional Child Life programs as an impediment to her dream. Instead, she reasoned, "I'll just have to go to America."
Saki grew up in Shimane Prefecture in western Japan-a beautiful, rural area far from the mega cities of Tokyo and Osaka. She first learned about child life by watching a TV program. "I always knew I wanted to be in a healthcare setting," she said. "I can't be a doctor or a nurse because I have limited sight. So when I heard about child life, I just knew it was for me. I want to help children and families, and I can relate to children who feel left out or marginalized," she said.
When Saki began her first year at Wheelock in 2006, it was her first international experience. "I had to get my passport-it was my first time out of Japan."
"There were a lot of reasons why I wanted to come to Wheelock-the small size, the proximity to so many well-known hospitals-but Wheelock's reputation as one of the best in the field was the deciding factor."
If she felt any apprehension about starting college in a foreign country, Saki quickly overcame it. "I had some kind of energy that drove me to come. I got over my fear and anxiety."
She also received a lot of support from Paul Hastings, Director of Academic Assistance and Disability Services. "I met Paul the summer before my freshman year to discuss my vision issue. He has been very helpful to me and has given me so much information, opportunities, and support to help me be more successful in college."
At Wheelock, Saki has been able to combine her passion for child life with another love-music. "Wheelock was perfect for combining my interests-it's like an automatic double major." She has been playing piano since the age of four and has recently learned guitar. "A guitar is a lot more portable than a piano," she laughed.
Saki enjoys playing a variety of music, and recently performed a piano piece she composed at the 2009 Child Life Council Conference in Boston. "When I composed the piece, I wanted it to be accessible to all ages," she said. "I wanted it to mirror what a child's experience in a hospital might be like-sad, but enlightening when they have someone to help them."
Saki is not sure if her career plans include staying in the U.S. or going back to Japan. But she is sure that Wheelock has given her a solid foundation. "Wheelock is one of the best in professional development. When experts in my field know that I'm from Wheelock, I know they'll be confident in me."