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Student Experiences

A Noteworthy Narrative

Alyssa Flake, a senior from Snowflake, Arizona, helps put the “us” in “chorus” wherever life takes her.

An alum of the Brigham Young University female a cappella group Noteworthy, Flake employed musical talents during a sixteen-week internship at Maple Lake, a residential treatment center for girls with autism to cap off her therapeutic recreation degree at the BYU Marriott School of Business.

Alyssa Flake is a therapeutic recreation senior from Snowflake, Arizona.
Alyssa Flake is a therapeutic recreation senior from Snowflake, Arizona.

“You see her in terms of her performance in Noteworthy—she’s obviously had to go the extra bazillion miles to be that good, and she does that in every aspect of her life,” says TR professor Ramon Zabriskie. “She does that as a student and works hard to strive for excellence.”

At Maple Lake, Flake worked with nearly twenty girls ranging in age from twelve to eighteen, all of whom had autism and many of whom struggled with a number of other comorbidities, including depression, anxiety, self-harm, substance abuse, and eating disorders. The girls live at the center for about two years as they work to build relationships, overcome destructive habits, and return to a healthy functioning point with their families.

“Right away, I saw the goodness in these girls and how hard they’re working to be able to change and get back to their families,” Flake says. “It’s changed me, we’ll put it that way. These girls have taught me so much in these past few months, and it’s been uplifting to be a part of.”

Flake engaged in a minimum of nine hours of recreational therapy with the girls each week, implementing various intervention modalities to help them learn how to work together and rely on one another for support. A strong proponent of the healing power of music, Flake hatched a plan to teach the girls an arrangement of “Homeward Bound,” a song with special meaning to them as they prepared to return home and embrace their lives in better and healthier ways.

“I essentially gave them assignments and told them at the end of rec therapy one day, ‘OK, you have to learn these words over the weekend!’” Flake recalls.

The idea evolved further when Flake’s husband, Jordan Turner—a commercial music major in sound recording and engineering—received permission from one of his BYU professors to allow the girls to use the recording studio on campus to record the song for their parents.

“The girls were so excited to be in a real recording studio,” Flake says.

Throughout the process, Flake helped the patients recognize the real-life applications underpinning music making: teamwork to balance harmonies, the importance of individual parts, and the unifying message conveyed by the lyrics. The end product was a powerful demonstration of each girl’s journey to return home and included a verse written a few years ago by one of the Maple Lake attendees that encapsulates the rehabilitation experience. (To listen to the recording, click here.)

Flake (front and center) with her Noteworthy comrades.
Flake (front and center) with her Noteworthy comrades.

While music played a significant part in Flake’s internship, she hopes to continue creating a variety of interventions that speak in different ways to the patients she works with. For example, she drew upon her knowledge of Japanese culture—acquired from an LDS mission she served in Japan—to teach girls about their own personal strengths through an activity with Japanese fans.

“The cool thing about recreational therapy is you can use so many different modalities to bring about positive change,” Flake notes. “I loved being able to grow in my confidence and learn how I could really use my own strengths to be a good therapist.”

She fell in love with the therapeutic recreation program from day one, particularly because of its emphasis on helping others steer their own personal change. According to Flake, the patients aren’t the only ones who experience this.

“It’s changed my life, being in this major—and not just my schooling,” she says. “It’s made such an impact on my own relationships.”

Though her time in the renowned a cappella group has come to a close, Flake’s endeavors will continue to be noteworthy as she brings healing and peace to individuals throughout her career.


Writer: Afton Izu