Senior interns go above and beyond to help

East Stroudsburg. Two rehabilitative and human services students used their resources - and each other - to secure a wheelchair for a consumer in need.

| 11 Apr 2023 | 12:22

Internships help students develop new and strengthen existing skill sets, and apply classroom theory to real-life situations. In the case of two ESU students, they are a way to positively impact the lives of others.

Alice Montes, a senior rehabilitative and human services major from Canadensis, Pa., is an intern this spring at Street2Feet, a day shelter for homeless adults in East Stroudsburg. Some of her most important tasks are opening the shelter’s doors and greeting each individual every morning, including learning the names of all of the people who utilize the shelter’s services.

“We can get up to 50 people a day, so learning all of the names is tough but worthwhile. I feel that knowing everyone’s name makes them feel appreciated,” she said.

As part of her internship, Montes had to write a case study on one of the shelter’s consumers to learn how the organization benefits them. She chose someone she’d gotten to know named Kirk, who has a physical disability and uses a walker. “I saw him and noticed he was having trouble making breakfast and taking care of himself,” Montes said. “I saw that he had a walker but thought he might do better with a wheelchair.”

Montes reached out to her internship advisor, Domenico Cavaiuolo, Ph.D., professor of special education and rehabilitation for guidance with securing a wheelchair for Kirk. He connected Montes with another rehabilitative and human services student, Samantha Engelhardt, a senior from Bethlehem, Pa., who happens to be interning at LVCIL this spring. “I know they have different equipment and assistive technology devices,” Cavaiuolo said. “I reached out to Samantha, and she was able to identify someone Alice could connect with. They worked together—they discussed what Kirk needed, and lo and behold, LVCIL had a motorized wheelchair available.”

Montes secured the wheelchair and coordinated transportation to bring it to Street2Feet for Kirk. “He was really excited,” Montes said. “When he got it, he had the biggest smile on his face.”

People like Kirk are why Montes and Engelhardt chose rehabilitative and human services. “I have two brothers with disabilities—that’s what pulled me into this field,” Montes said. “I love working with people. I feel very happy for Kirk because I see his growth. He’s changed. He’s happier, he can get around more. It brings warmth to my heart. I’m glad he’s doing better.”

Cavaiuolo said this is the first time a student intern has initiated a gesture like this for an agency consumer. “Students do come back with various things they would like to do to help people, but not usually something of this nature—it’s usually locating information or referrals. This is definitely above and beyond what any of our interns have ever done, but it’s really a testament to Alice’s commitment and devotion to helping people. I liked to see her advocating and working toward something like this. It showed her abilities and knowledge, and apply what we teach in class as far as being an advocate.”

Cavaiuolo said Montes and Engelhardt are two of the best students in the program.

“They give great support, they have strong commitment to the program and the work. They’re just excellent students. They understand the value of human services and how they benefit the people they serve and offer a better quality of life for all,” he added.

After this experience, Montes said she is excited to pursue a career advocating for and helping others. She is not completely set on her future plans yet but she is considering a few options.

Engelhardt has secured employment with LVCIL after her graduation in May. She said is proud to have played a role in making life a little easier for Kirk.

“I feel this was huge for him. Alice advocated...and it ended up changing his entire life. It gave this person a huge step toward achieving things independently,” Engelhardt said.