Bay Cliff Health Camp Director Seth Rowles began working at Bay Cliff Health Camp the summer after his freshman year at Michigan State.
Bay Cliff Health Camp is a non-profit therapy and wellness center for people with physical disabilities. Although it operates year-round, its primary program is a seven-week summer therapy camp session for children with disabilities. During these seven weeks, children work towards goals of increased independence and leading a fuller life.
Rowles was introduced to Bay Cliff during his senior year of high school when his football team shared a meal with the campers.
“That was my first introduction to Bay Cliff,” Rowles said. “I really enjoyed it and thought it was a really cool experience.”
Rowles enjoyed it so much he decided to apply to work at Bay Cliff in 2014, the summer after his first year of college.
“After my freshman year,” Rowles said, “I was grasping (at) straws of what I wanted to do for the summer, and I was like, ‘Oh, what if I applied to Bay Cliff? Maybe that would be a good experience.’ 100% oversold my childcare experience on my application, but I got the job, and I worked there the summer, and it very much changed my life,” Rowles said.
It was through his job as a recreation instructor and Unit II leader Rowles fell in love with Bay Cliff, but he was originally unsure whether the job would be beneficial to his studies.
It was through his experiences at MSU, along with Bay Cliff, he was truly inspired to dedicate his life to helping children.
A psychology major, Rowles worked with kids through MSU’s Adolescent Diversion Project. The program pairs an MSU student with a first-time juvenile offender in the criminal justice system, diverting them from formal processing and providing them with community-based service opportunities.
“I was with a young man for, I think, a whole semester, Rowles said. “The approach that they use for the adolescent project is very social work kind of based, very strengths-based, very ecological systems, and that’s when I kinda decided that social work was the choice I really wanted to make.”
As early as his junior year, Rowles knew he wanted to pursue a master’s degree in social work in order to go on to work as a clinical social worker, according to an MSU article published in 2016.
Rowles did just that — he graduated from MSU with a bachelor’s degree in science in psychology in 2017 and then attended MSU’s graduate school, graduating with a Master’s Degree in Clinical Social Work in 2019.
After graduating, Rowles practiced working as a clinician for children who have experienced trauma in multiple different states and cities.
While working in Marquette as a home base clinician, the camp director job opened up at Bay Cliff, and Rowles was offered the position, thanks to his extensive background in working with children with trauma.
As camp director, Rowles oversees the day-to-day running of Bay Cliff, provides support to staff, researches ways Bay Cliff can better serve its campers and ensures everything at Bay Cliff is of the highest quality and improves the lives of the people it serves.
The opportunity to work full-time at Bay Cliff is truly a dream come true for Rowles.
“What I see that’s really amazing for me is kids who have experienced, their whole life, being told what they can’t do, or feeling left out, feeling like they don’t fit in, feeling like they’re the only person in their entire community who has a disability or who had their disability, they get to come to us for the summer and just be kids,” Rowles said. (4:59)
The MSU School of Social Work is one of the strongest clinical programs in the country, according to MSU. Its mission is one of social justice and positive change.
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