Celebrating Pride Month: Meet Jake Kenyon

Jake Kenyon is a Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP) at Charlton Memorial Hospital. Often perceived as a major extrovert, Jake is an introvert with an artistic side.

He diagnoses and treats swallowing disorders in critically ill patients. “I also provide speech, language, and cognitive treatment to patients recovering from various medical conditions on our Southeast Rehab Unit.”

Jake grew up in Swansea. After attending the University of New Hampshire undergraduate and graduate programs he made his way back to our region, where he’s been serving Southcoast Health patients for four years.

He took an interest to SLP in his high school Anatomy and Physiology class. “I knew I wanted to go into the health sciences. I almost went to school to be an Occupational Therapist, but after hearing more about the work SLPs do in the medical setting, it seemed like a much better fit.”

For Jake, it’s helping people live happy, healthier lives through Speech-Language Pathology that he finds most important. “I am keeping patients safe not only during their admission but also finding ways to improve a patient’s swallow function for long-term impacts on safety such as staying out of the hospital for aspiration-related illnesses.”

Speech-Language Pathology includes counseling patients with their communication and swallowing disorders, an aspect Jake says he loves.

“Eating and communication play huge roles in social interaction, which largely impact our emotional and mental health. Without access to eating and speaking, quality of life can be significantly impacted. Providing patients with motivation and the feeling of being understood is crucial to success in therapy.”

When Jake isn’t providing therapy to patients, he is running the business he opened in 2017.

“In graduate school, I learned to crochet during a big snowstorm. That craft stuck with me. I started selling handmade items through an Etsy shop. When I discovered I could dye my own yarn I started researching and planning. What started as dyeing yarn in my kitchen quickly became a side hustle, and eventually, my own online shop.” Now, he works out of a small studio space in Providence.

He recently joined the Southcoast Health Diversity & Inclusion Council. “I’ve always been passionate about issues of human rights and racial/gender equality. When I saw that Southcoast Health was taking initiative to make a positive change in these areas within our hospital community, I jumped at the chance to be included.”

He says the Southcoast Diversity & Inclusion Council is vital for education and awareness. “It’s also important in fostering a sense of community and belonging for all employees and patients.”

Each June, as part of Pride Month, Jake donates or raises money for organizations that support the LGBTQ+ community. He raised $1,000 for Trans Life Line, and $3,000 for Black Lives Matter this year. “Every June, I donate proceeds from an exclusive yarn color from my shop to donate to an LGBTQ+ charity of my choice. I find it so important that anyone with a large platform like my own uses it for positive change in areas of inequality and fiscal support. I strive to support pro LGBTQ+ groups and support organizations that stand for anti-racism.”

Southcoast Health is celebrating Pride Month to show support for the LGBTQ+ community. Jake believes Pride is more than rainbow flags and parades. “It’s about the sense of community and pride we as an LGBTQ+ group share together. Pride is about honoring the folks before us who have paved the way for our community and remembering those who have been lost when our community was failed. Pride is a time for me to celebrate with my birth and ‘chosen’ family in an expression of what makes us truly unique.”

He recommends attending a Pride event if you haven’t already. “Reach out to LGBTQ+ friends if you haven’t attended an event or are an ally looking to be involved within the community. Such an important part of Pride is seeing our allies step up to stand by us in celebration and solidarity.”

For anyone reading this who may be struggling with their identity, Jake says, “Never feel pressure to move at anyone else’s timeline when working on self-discovery. You don’t owe an explanation of your identity to anyone but yourself and sorting out your own identity isn’t something that happens overnight. Always remember that you are uniquely you and that you should celebrate the parts of yourself that set you apart from the flock.”

Jake aims to keep increasing his business exposure. “I would love to one day have a booth at Rhinebeck Sheep and Wool Festival in New York. I would also love to find a local farm that could supply me with my exclusive yarn base.”

He sees the full picture. “I am hopeful that someday I can find a way to combine my speech work and my yarn dyeing. Teaching classes in the fiber arts to adults with cognitive or linguistic dysfunction could be very meaningful for clients and foster a feeling of purpose and accomplishment!” Learn more about how Southcoast Health celebrates diversity and inclusion.