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Side by Side

Frieda Sutton and Debbie Epstein Pursue Their Dream to Help Children at Stern College for Women

Frieda Sutton and Debbie Epstein first met in the summer of 2011 at The Kids of Courage Summer Adventure Camp, a travel experience for children or young adults struggling with illness or disability. Sutton, who has cerebral palsy, had heard about the program at Camp Morasha and decided to give it a shot. Epstein became her counselor. But right away, the two learned they had something else in common—that fall, they would both head to midtown Manhattan for their first semester at Yeshiva University’s Stern College for Women.

Frieda Sutton and Debbie Epstein Frieda Sutton and Debbie Epstein

“Stern sounded like a good way to get to know people and living in the city also sounded like a good thing,” said Sutton, a Brooklyn native.

Epstein, of Boca Raton, Florida, agreed. “I wanted to be somewhere with a big Jewish community where I could meet lots of new people.”

At Stern, Epstein and Sutton could also pursue their shared passion: improving the lives of children.

“I work in a camp for children with special needs and that made me want to go into special education, because when I walk into the camp and I see the kids coming in with smiles on their faces, it brightens up my day and I go home with a smile too,” said Sutton, a junior. “I want to help kids everywhere.”

Epstein, a senior, volunteers at children’s playroom in Mt. Sinai Medical Center and is majoring in psychology at Stern. “I want to be a child life psychologist, working in hospitals with kids to help them deal with the stress of being there, the emotional aspects, the fears and the worries,” she said. “I want to help them feel like normal kids—just because they’re in the hospital doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have time to play.”

Especially rewarding for the two has been the opportunity to continue their friendship. “For me, the best part of being in Stern together is getting to be friends like anyone else would,” said Epstein. “Instead of just seeing each other as a camper and counselor during the summers, we have classes together and pass each other in the hallways. She’s part of my life here.”

“Debbie’s the best,” Sutton said. “I couldn’t ask for a better counselor.”