In a word – “patience”!
According to Women’s Center & Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh, Children’s Advocate II, Anita Hammond, “It takes patience to work with our clients. When you have children who have been exposed to domestic violence, you’re going to have behavioral issues.”
Patience is the main quality that made City High student DeAzia Edmonson so valuable during her internship at the Women’s Center & Shelter. As Ms. Hammond puts it, “DeAzia was a great addition to our team. She is open to receive information, fully engaged, very patient and has a calm personality. You’re going to have kids who are angry at times. And they don’t understand their emotions. We check in with them and talk about their feelings. DeAzia’s very good with that. She was really very helpful. And willing to dive in and do what was needed.”
Often that meant disinfecting the children’s playthings, which is crucial. “You have to constantly clean,” explains Ms. Hammond, “because you are working with children. It is a universal precaution. Our families come from difficult and often transient situations, so we always have to be careful. We disinfect every toy before they use them and after they go out.”
| DeAzia Edmonson: “Compared to my old school,
I really like how City High did things.
It really changed me a lot. It made me more mature…
more prepared for the future and the outside world.”
You can’t ask for more than that.
Perhaps, it’s the one-on-one connection that is most important to the intern experience. Interns often assist with the tutor when she has too many children. DeAzia loved this. She learned various techniques to handle negative behaviors, how to engage kids in a positive way and learned about group therapy and counseling.
“At the Women’s Center & Shelter, I would play with the kids. You gotta become a kid to play with a kid. So I would do story time, dress up, draw, paint. . . . We would go outside sometimes because there was a little park outside and play with the ball. Sometimes they would have therapy dogs come in. We would also have yoga time. A lady would come in and teach yoga with the mother and the kids.”
In the after-school program DeAzia would help kids with their homework, giving them a snack first and then talking about their day at school. Ms. Hammond says, “This is their room, their space, where they are comfortable. So they can share whatever is on their mind… with any of us… as advocates. For the younger children, the challenges are different. Sometimes they’re not taking their naps when they’re supposed to and they’re a little cranky. So sometimes they need a little more time to sit still…maybe they need to be rocked to sleep. This extra help with childcare provided by the interns, frees up our counselors to work with the parents and offer them connections to legal, medical, financial and social services.”
According to Ms. Hammond, “The internship is a great opportunity to help our youth learn what we do and look behind the scenes to see if social work is the type of career they might be interested in.” For DeAzia, The Women’s Center & Shelter internship did sway her change in career direction. “Sometimes I would hear stories of what actually happened and I realized social work might not really be right for me. I’m a pretty emotionally attached person and thought, ‘Maybe I can’t do that.’ So in a sense, they helped me make decisions.”
Based on her growth and development during this internship, DeAzia is now considering a career in education. And although she’s not 100% (real estate is also a growing passion for this confident young woman with a 3.0 GPA), she is looking into a teaching career in her future. She’s already had some teaching experience at City High. “I was a Teachers Assistant for a couple classes – going down to the younger floors and helping the teachers on any assignments they have. I wanted to know more about teaching, like what to do and what not to do. I really do enjoy it.”
Real-world internships do give high school kids a chance to explore areas of interest to learn what those careers are all about. In this case, it was a double win, ruling out social work and discovering early childhood education. It’s just one of the things that makes City High so different from the public school alternative. And kids realize the difference. At least DeAzia did. She figures, “Compared to my old school, I really like how City High did things. It really changed me a lot. It made me more mature… more prepared for the future and the outside world.” You can’t ask for more than that.