She found a career—and adventure—in Alaska
Eden Abramson doesn't wrestle bears or capture fish with her bare hands like the rugged adventurers portrayed in books and films. But she has the spirit of an adventurer, and it was this spirit that drew Abramson to Alaska, where, as a school psychologist, she is helping children deal with the highs and lows of growing up.
"I had always known that I wanted to have an adventure before I settled down," Abramson says. "I knew that there was a lot of wilderness in Alaska and that moose, on occasion, walked down the main streets, but other than that I didn't know much. But I did know that they were looking for school psychologists, so I decided to give it a try."
Abramson arrived in Anchorage, Alaska, in August 2001 with few possessions. Because moving things like furniture and televisions can be quite expensive, most transplanted Alaskans arrive without much. But Abramson, who earned a master's degree in school psychology from Tufts in 1996, didn't want for long. She was immediately introduced to the giving nature of the Anchorage community. "Within a few days of landing in Alaska, I was given a television, an entertainment center and a dresser from people I hardly knew," she says.
The friendliness extended to the workplace, where Abramson continues to benefit from a supportive network of co-workers. As a school psychologist in Anchorage, she works in a school district that supports 50,000 students. Her primary focus is IQ testing, and students undergoing a special education evaluation must go through Abramson before receiving targeted services.
Along with the testing, Abramson does have the opportunity to provide more direct intervention. It is a role she relishes. "One student I worked with had been involved in a few altercations at school and was having some problems communicating. We clicked almost immediately, and by the end of the year, she was doing much better."
Abramson faces some unique challenges on the job. Within her school district, there are children who suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder—a result of the lack of sunlight during the Alaskan winter—and those dealing with the effects of fetal alcohol syndrome, a condition caused when a mother drinks during pregnancy. Abramson has researched these topics extensively and also has found that many of her students face the same problems affecting children everywhere.
"Some autism and bipolar conditions have been coming up, and these are issues that I've never dealt with before," she says. "But many of these children have the same problems you see everywhere. We deal with students who might have a learning difficulty or a parenting issue at home. No matter where you go, the problems facing children are almost always universal."
Abramson plans to stay in Alaska for a few more years. She recently bought a home there and refers to her friends as an "extended family." She spends her free time exploring and is always on the lookout for new adventures. "In the summer, fishing is huge here," she says. "Everyone knows when the salmon are coming, and it's all anyone talks about."
Robert Bochnak covers the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences for
the Tufts Journal.