ASU Students and YSEALI State Department Fellows Delight Westward Ho Residents through an ASU Community Collaborative Special Event

Every semester at ASU’s Community Collaborative at the Westward Ho (ACC), recreation therapy students from Dr. Eric Legg’s PRM 303 Program Planning course plan, organize, and host a huge fun-filled party for the historic building’s mostly elderly residents. Many of the residents are disabled, often with low sources of income, and as a result, tend to live in isolation; so these events enhance their well-being because they serve as an excellent excuse for residents to leave their rooms, socialize, and get to know one another.

This spring’s event, which took place on a Wednesday, was especially spectacular because it was a co-creation between ASU therapeutic recreation students and a group of 20 international fellows from a state department funded program at ASU called the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI). As a short-term international exchange program, YSEALI harnesses the extraordinary leadership potential of youth (ages 18 – 26) in Southeast Asia to address critical challenges and expand opportunities that promote cross-border cooperation to solve regional and global challenges. This year’s group of fellows treated attendees to choreographed cultural performances and they educated audience members about their home countries of Cambodia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, Laos, Myanmar, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam. Residents couldn’t get enough of it!

“All of the post-event surveys came back very positive with most of them 5/5; one resident came up to me a couple of times and said ‘Of all the (events) they've done here, this is number one.’ The YSEALI fellows were fantastic and really allowed the residents to be involved in their activities and culture. Many residents left with a smile on their face and I am so glad that I was able to be part of something so impactful.”  – Kessy Bigott, ASU Recreation Therapy Student and Event Host.

“Hosting YSEALI at ASU is a win-win situation for the fellows, ASU students, and the community”, says Dr. Christine Buzinde. “We all know that travel abroad can broaden one’s outlook on the world but only a few of our students and community members can afford such experiences. Programs like YSEALI help us bridge this gap. For instance, ASU students who cannot participate in study abroad can further broaden their international perspectives, whilst here in the US, through interactions with YSEALI fellows. Furthermore, the event at Westward Ho allowed the YSEALI fellows to take residents on a memorable and educational ‘journey’ to Southeast Asia and by so doing they utilized art (cultural performance), as a valuable recreational therapy tool for residents. The fellows also had a unique opportunity to learn about some of the social challenges faced by the greater Phoenix area and the co-created solutions that ASU’s Community Collaborative at the Westward Ho (ACC) is working on. The key driver of success in the event was the great level of professionalism and commitment to service demonstrated by the recreational therapy students; and that is a testament to the efforts undertaken by SCRD faculty members, Eric Legg and Kelly Ramella, who continuously inspire students to enhance community well-being through therapeutic recreation.” – Dr. Christine Buzinde, Associate Professor in SCRD and Academic Director for the Civic Engagement YSEALI Institute at ASU.

The event also included nutrition students from Lisa Morse’s Applied Practice in Nutrition course, who distributed the bounty from their recent food drive and offered education and tips on healthful eating to event attendees.   There were even social work students present to talk about additional community resources.   

The ACC is an innovative program, managed by ASU’s Center for Applied Behavioral Health Policy, where ASU students from the Schools of Social Work, Nursing, Nutrition, and Recreation Therapy provide a variety of free services to the historic buildings residents, including psychosocial services, health promotion and nutrition education, and social and recreational activities. 

Not only does it serve the residents, but the program also allows students to learn the skills of their field while addressing a need in the community, thereby reflecting ASU’s goals and design aspirations to leverage their place in the community, develop solutions to real-life challenges, and enable student success. 

For more information on the program visit  Details on the YSEALI program can be located at: