Internships are stepping-stones to success

SPRINGFIELD – Placed on top of a hill overlooking U.S. Route 68 stands the Ohio Masonic Home. Though the name Masonic may be shrouded in mystery, this 125-year-old castle is a retirement community with assisted living, independent living, short term care, a Memory Care center for individuals with Alzheimer’s/dementia, and one college intern.

Heather Berry, a sociology major at Urbana University, started a social services internship here on June 1. “I love working here. Everyone is nice and the residents are wonderful.” Berry’s internship consists of assessing the mood and memory of every resident. She needs to report the level of care, if residents are depressed, if anyone is having difficulties sleeping, or any other problems that residents are having. “They take really good care of the residents here and want to make sure everyone is happy.”

The Ohio Masonic Home offers independent living and assisted living for the elderly. It also cares for residents diagnosed with Alzheimer’s/dementia, which is what Berry wants to specialize in. “I’m very thankful they wanted to hire me. I don’t think I would have had this experience at other places.” Berry also stated that you learn extensively more as you actually do it.

As part of the sociology degree requirement, Urbana students engage in a field-related internship. This type of experiential learning is a great way to provide both hands-on experience as well as build credibility during a student’s job search. “Experience helps your resume.” A teacher informed her of the Ohio Masonic Home and encouraged her to apply. “I am thankful for the professors (at Urbana University). Every class that I took has helped with this position.”

As with everything in life, this internship comes with its share of ups and downs. Berry describes the most enjoyable part of this experience as “talking to residents.” When asked about the most difficult, surprisingly she gave the same answer. It’s “the emotional aspect.” Berry explained that she was emotionally touched when a resident was telling her about her life. The Ohio Masonic Home is home to hundreds of individuals, all with unique stories. The older generations are important to learn from. They can tell invaluable stories of growing up in a much different world.

Tonya Blumenschein, the Director of Social Services at the Ohio Masonic Home and Berry’s boss, says Berry is a good worker and doesn’t hesitate while preforming her duties. Blumenschein also sees the value in internships. It “looks good on your resume.” She also explained that it gives Berry an opportunity to see what she likes or doesn’t like. She went on to say that the Ohio Masonic Home is a well-rounded place to intern. That is, students get different skills and exposure to all kinds of assisted living. “It’s real experience. Interns will know if it’s right for them.” Not only is this a great experience for students, but it also helps the Masonic Home staff as well. “Social work is the least staffed. Interns help with the workload.”

After Berry receives her degree she wants to obtain an entry level job at a nursing home and work with the elderly. She also plans to pursue a Master’s degree after gaining a little more experience. “I’m thankful to Urbana University for giving me the tools to be able to do this. If it wasn’t for the staff and faculty, I couldn’t have done this. They care about students. That’s one of the things I really like about Urbana University.”

By Matthew Apperley

This story was submitted by Sherry Mercurio on behalf of Urbana University.