By TRAVIS MORSE email@example.com
---- — MT. VERNON — For college student Lindsay Smith, working as an intern this semester at Angels’ Cove in Mt. Vernon has been a truly rewarding experience.
While the prospect of completing 420 hours of service in one semester seemed daunting at first, the challenge was well worth it in the end, she said.
“I’ve loved working at Angels’ Cove,” Smith said. “I definitely think this is one of the best maternity residential facilities that I’ve ever been a part of. … I’ve learned more here than I would say I have in the classroom.”
Smith is one of 11 students at Southern Illinois University-Carbondale who are donating their time this semester to intern at various Mt. Vernon social service agencies.
The students, who are enrolled in the SIUC School of Social Work, serve as interns to fulfill course requirements and gain valuable real world experience.
Carla Donoho, director of Angels’ Cove, said the program has been extremely beneficial for everyone involved. The interns get to learn on the job while the agencies receive a free source of labor.
“To me, the benefit of having interns is that you have a fresh look at things,” Donoho said. “One thing that we have learned is that change doesn’t happen by groups. Change happens when you have life on life. … It takes investment into a person.”
In addition to Angels’ Cove, other local agencies with SIUC interns this semester include United Methodist Children’s Home, Lutheran Child and Family Services, Cornerstone Family Counseling LLC, Southern 30 Adolescent Center and Mt. Vernon Township High School.
A special meeting was held at Angels’ Cove Tuesday afternoon as a way to show appreciation to this semester’s interns.
Angels’ Cove has two interns this semester — Smith and Lamanda Bean. Both students plan to graduate in May with bachelor’s degrees in social work.
While at Angels’ Cove, Smith and Bean were able to work with pregnant mothers in need.
“At first, it was a little overwhelming to go in there and work with all the girls, just one-on-one, but it’s been great,” Smith said. “I think it really opens my eyes to the individual needs in social work.”
Bean was also able to participate in policy writing for the agency’s international adoption program.
“It’s interesting to see all of the different aspects that actually go into adoption and a maternity home,” Bean said.
MVTHS has an SIUC intern for the first time this semester. Lyndsey Moore, a school social worker at the high school, said the intern, Kourtney Gimber, has helped out a great deal.
“It’s been nice having Kourtney to take on some of those kids who need some ongoing counseling who cannot get into services here in town,” Moore said. “It’s been great having an extra pair of hands.”
Misty Boyd, an intern for Cornerstone Family Counseling, said there is quite a difference between real world social work and what students learn in class.
“You can talk about things in a class, about how you’re supposed to handle these situations, but then when you really get someone in front of you telling you about years of abuse, I mean it’s completely different than just hearing about it in class,” Boyd said.
Connie Baker, field liaison for SIUC, said the School of Social Work interns are providing roughly 5,500 hours of community service to Mt. Vernon agencies this semester.
“It’s a really nice example of reciprocity where the agencies give a lot and they get a lot, and similarly the students both get and receive a lot as well,” Baker said.
Donoho said she would like to see more Mt. Vernon agencies take advantage of SIUC’s internship program.
Though it does take an investment of time to train the interns, the end result makes it all worthwhile, she said.
“You are helping them become the people that God’s created them to be,” Donoho said of the interns.