Jazy Farmer-Hite provided support for students with disabilities in inclusive University environments and gained skills in communication and problem solving.
How did you get your internship and why did you choose it?
For a while, I had no clue exactly what I wanted my internship to be. Then when I saw an email over the Public & Applied Humanities email listserv about peer mentor positions with Project FOCUS (Focusing Opportunities with Community and University Support), I knew I just had to respond to it. The email explained that Project FOCUS provides an inclusive university experience for transition-age students to participate in collegiate-level academic courses, community-based work internships and social campus life events. The email went on to state that they were looking for peer mentors to support the students who are in the program. The email included the contact information of the supervisor, so I emailed her my information and attached my resume. Soon after that, I received an email back inviting me for an interview. At the end of my zoom interview, I was offered a position as a peer mentor!
The mission and purpose of this internship really stood out to me and I knew that it was going to be such an amazing and rewarding experience for me. I also knew that it was going to be great practice for the line of work I wanted to pursue in the future.
What kind of work did you do throughout your internship experience?
The kind of work I did throughout my internship experience with Project FOCUS ranged from supporting the students with their own internships, going with them to their classes, and hanging out with them. A lot of the work I did during my time at this internship was centered around the students' Individualized Education Program (IEP) goals. IEP goals are statements that describe what knowledge, skills and/or behaviors a student is expected to achieve. For example, I worked with the students on their IEP goals such as vocabulary development, job searching, interviewing, blogging, and wage calculations. As an intern and peer mentor, I had the opportunity to learn how to develop and implement individualized and personalized plans, which take into account the students strengths, preferences, and goals.
Effective communication was an especially important skill that I used during my internship. I enhanced my use of clear and concise communication, active listening, nonverbal cues, and other tools to establish a positive rapport with my students. I also built my collaborative communication skills. Throughout my experience, I worked as part of a team and communicated effectively with diverse stakeholders involved in the student’s life, such as family members and past teachers.
The emphasis on social skills is also something that is very unique about Project FOCUS. I had the opportunity to learn how to teach social skills and promote social inclusion, which is an essential component of a person's overall well-being.
What skills did you develop in this internship?
Interning for a community of people who have intellectual and/or developmental disabilities helped me develop a wide range of transferable skills that can be valuable in various professional settings. For example, I mentioned how I used my communication skills. I also had the opportunity to further develop problem solving and critical thinking skills. For example, I was able to expand my knowledge and practice creative solutions to help the students overcome challenges they faced. Because of how hands-on and engaging this internship was, I don't think I would've gotten these same skills from interning elsewhere.
How was the internship related to your Applied Humanities degree?
The internship with Project FOCUS is related to my Applied Humanities degree because Applied Humanities focuses on developing empathy and cultural awareness, which are essential qualities for supporting individuals who have intellectual and/or developmental disabilities. Being a peer mentor gave me the opportunity to work with people from diverse backgrounds and learn to view the world from their perspective, which helps develop greater empathy and cultural awareness. Other factors that are in relation to applied humanities include communication and interpersonal skills, and working collaboratively. Overall, interning with Project FOCUS relates to applied humanities in the sense that both programs provide students with hands-on experience working with individuals from diverse backgrounds, developing communication and interpersonal skills, and gaining a deeper understanding of disability and its impact on individuals' society.
What advice do you have for other students as they search for their internship?
The advice I have for other students as they begin their internship search journey is to research opportunities and apply early. Many internship positions have deadlines well in advance of the internship start date so it is important to begin your search early. Before I was an intern with Project FOCUS, I applied for an internship that really interested me but didn't hear back from them until halfway through the first semester of my senior year! My other piece of advice is that you tailor your application materials to the internship. In a similar way, when you are preparing for an interview, do research of the organization, review common interview questions, and practice your responses. And lastly, be open-minded and willing to learn!