Shannon Yard and her Semester in D.C.

Shannon Yard ’18, a junior Psychology major, is a health and basic needs intern during her time at the Lutheran College Washington Semester Program.
“I am the Health and Basic Needs Intern at Horton’s Kids. HK is an organization devoted to serving the Wellington Park community in DC’s Ward 8. Most recently at work I called over fifty mental health providers to find one that would be a good partner for us to provide counseling and therapy to the children enrolled in our program. My supervisor has set up meetings with a few potential matches, but during the process I learned more about the many differences in counseling and therapy practices and had to evaluate which ones would be the best for our kids. On a day-to-day basis, I distribute diapers to parents in need, help families access the emergency food pantry, and (my personal favorite) work directly with the kids during homework help or tutoring.

It’s hard for me to put into words what I’ve learned thus far. I’m definitely seeing the affects of adverse childhood experiences on the kids in the program, even if I don’t know the exact stories behind them. Some don’t know if they’ll have food on the table when they get home from school. Others are exposed to abusive relationships and drug/alcohol abuse. Some have lost a parent or sibling because of divorce or violence and others have incarcerated family members. Because of these experiences, the kids are sometimes angry or upset for no apparent reason when normally they are bright and happy. A lot of the children lack strong inhibitory control and because of that, have a lot of attentional and behavioral issues. Through this I’ve learned that sometimes I need to take a breath and grab a kid by the hand and go on a walk or go to a quieter space to see what’s causing their behavior. I’m also seeing the importance of children having access to things like books and museums to promote their development. I’m learning a lot about community values and how it’s hard to change the whole picture of a community if the whole picture isn’t involved. Most of all, I’m questioning myself and the work that I’ve done with HK and what we and other organizations can do to make lives better.
My plan after Roanoke is to take a gap year and do Americorps or something similar that will allow me to work directly with a community and children again. After that I plan on going to graduate school to get my master’s in Social Work. I would eventually like to incorporate therapy dogs into a social work setting, but how that will happen is up in the air right now. This internship has really opened my eyes to a lot of things I had not seen before. I’m grateful for the people I’ve met and worked with, especially the ones that have challenged my way of thinking. I am going to absorb and enjoy the last month that I’m here, because I already know I’ll miss it when I’m gone.”