The Value of Child’s Play

July 21, 2014

Liberal Arts major Sarah Tiapula Stein grew up in Singapore and is fluent in Mandarin, French and ASL—American Sign Language. She’s an Out-in-Two scholar, a member of Phi Theta Kappa and on the Dean’s List.

“I’m also participating in a research fellowship at Teachers College, at Columbia University; a Saturday enrichment program for children with autism,” she says.

That program, led by Teacher’s College Professor Hsu-Min Chiang, is held at a community center in Chinatown.

“There are about 20 kids in the group, ages three to 10,” says Stein.

“Some are nonverbal and some speak either speak Mandarin or Cantonese. I’d say a third of the children speak English.”

The volunteers “conduct play therapy groups, and incorporate dance, language and math,” says Stein, who is building toward a career focused on “the education, psychology and neurological side of the development of children with autism and developmental disabilities.”

A ‘wonderful place to start’

Stein was born in Hawai’i, then lived in Southeast Asia. She moved to Florida as a young adult, then New York, where she enrolled at BMCC.

“I think for someone who hasn’t been in a classroom for a long time, this is a wonderful place to start,” she says.

One of her best experiences as a student has been her anthropology and human geography classes with social sciences and human services professor Paula Saunders.

“She’s made me want to go into anthropology as a field,” says Stein, “and look at learning from the point of view of education-based research.”

“Sarah is academically curious to learn everything about people,” says Professor Saunters. 

“Her extensive travel and experiences abroad have given her a global perspective that would enable her to succeed in our diverse world. I have no doubt that she will succeed in all of her future endeavors.” 

Next steps

Sarah Tiapula Stein has also been inspired by her literature class with English professor Stephanie Carberry.

“She makes me want to throw my entire brain into the English language,” says Stein. “She made me love poetry; I used to hate it and now I’m writing it on the subway.”

As for next steps, Stein has applied to bachelor’s degree programs at Vanderbilt University, New York University and City College of New York, CUNY.

“Then, I want to attend the early childhood education program at Teachers College, specializing in children with disabilities,” she says.

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  • Sarah Tiapula Stein is participating in a research fellowship at Teachers College, Columbia University, a Saturday enrichment program for children with autism
  • She is working toward a career in early childhood education, working with children with disabilities

share this story »