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Reflection on an Arts For Life Summer Internship

August 31, 2016 | By Annie Rogers

This week, in each of our chapters across the state, we are saying “so long” to our summer interns.

The end of the summer is always bittersweet. 12 weeks – the length of time summer interns commit – goes by in a blink, so packed are their 16 weekly hours with teaching,  planning, community outreach, special projects, and continuous programming support. Add to that that the summer months are often among the busiest of the year at our art tables and bedside studios and, well, it seems that interns are leaving us just as soon as we’ve all gotten to know one another.

At the same time, though, summer internships offer what is probably the most well-rounded picture of what it means to do this work. Because time is so limited, interns are forced to learn and adapt quickly. They have to learn to pace themselves, and to employ strategies for managing their mental and emotional health. And even though the duration of the internship is short, summer interns spend more condensed hours with patients and families – in many cases long hours on consecutive days – which naturally lends itself to building strong relationships.

This year in our Asheville chapter, we were lucky enough to have four summer interns; more than ever before. It was an exceptional group. Each intern brought a unique set of skills, interests, passions, and experiences with them to the internship, and we had many lively group discussions about all different aspects of the work we were doing together. As their supervisor, I think I was most impressed by the emotional maturity, professionalism, and passion of our summer intern team. Program Coordinator Anna Long and I expected a lot from them, and they rose to the occasion.

Anna and I have spent this last week meeting with each intern individually for their final evaluations. While it has been bittersweet, I have been uplifted and inspired by the thoughtful conversations we’ve had with each of them. I feel very strongly that these women will go out into the world and continue to do good work. Meaningful work with real impact. They will touch lives and make a real difference. How do I know this? Because I saw them do it this summer.

As a part of their final evaluations, we ask interns to reflect on their experience, to share some of the insights they learned, and to offer advice to any future interns. Here are some of the things our Arts For Life Asheville summer interns had to say:

The most profound thing I learned from this internship is that you never know what a family is going through. Your mailman, your neighbor, even the nurse could have a child who is very ill and there is nothing harder than staying positive through that. So, I learned to be positive and helpful in my interactions with anyone. Also, seeing the strength that these children have despite what they are going through reminds me that life is precious and to be joyous is all in your mindset.”
-Kira B.

“There is no one way to teach a kid. And to know that not every kid will react how you expect, how you want, or how you’ve planned for. The parents are just as important but the main focus is the kid. A smile goes a very long way, and let the kid feel in charge.”
                                                                                                                                         -Carolina A.

“I am aware of the fact that saying no is something that these kids may rarely have the chance to do – I have learned a lot about looking at the situation through their eyes, and seeing the positives of the choice rather than feeling personally discouraged by a perceived lack of interest.”
                                                                                                                                         -Isla N.

“I learned that it is a fantastic privilege to work with the kids at Arts for Life. They’ve taught me so much about living joyfully. They have also shown me just how much need is present in my own community. During my time with Arts for Life, I’ve reconfigured my career goals. I will always be an artist, but now I’m more focused on pursuing a career in not for profit work.”
                                                                                                                                       -Elizabeth B.

To Kira, Carolina, Isla, and Elizabeth and all of our summer interns in Charlotte, Durham, and Winston-Salem, too: thank you for the gifts you have brought to Arts For Life and the thousands of patients and families we serve. Thank you for being stewards of this work, and for making a difference. On behalf of all of us at Arts For Life, I encourage  and challenge you to take what you’ve learned this summer and build on it. Grow it. And continue to make a difference.

Remember: Stay positive. A smile goes a long way. The need is so great. Live joyfully. Let the kid be in charge.