Hawaiian Islands internship leads to job for College of Education student

By Jim Carlson
April 01, 2015

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- A lifetime decision that Carly Presher had to make at an early juncture in her Penn State academic career has led to her having the time of her life.

A Las Vegas native who transferred from the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, Presher wanted to enroll in a theater program because of her love of singing and acting. But she also knew that helping people was another passion in her life. When the theater door closed on her early, another door opened through which she walked into the College of Education’s Rehabilitation Human Services (RHS) program.

Fast forward to the internship at a domestic violence action center she’s currently completing in Honolulu, and she’ll tell you that full-time employment resulted from that within weeks. There was a time, however, when success and happiness was on a much slower pace. She told her parents, family and friends a couple of years ago that she was leaving Penn State and moving to New York or Los Angeles to pursue an acting career.

Her grandmother acted fast and convinced her to let a full academic year play out before allowing the curtain to fall on Penn State. Thespian and a cappella groups became part of her life, and her love for the RHS major and what it stood for also grew.

“I’m so fortunate and glad that I stayed because I’ve had amazing opportunities come my way from being there and I wouldn’t change it for the world,’’ Presher said from Hawaii recently.

Presher, among other duties, speaks with people who are filing restraining orders against their significant others. She learns their story and if they are assessed as survivors, legal services or case management services can be provided for them.

That began as an internship in a community outreach and education program that was to span 20 hours per week over two semesters; she had to commit for a year. While taking a domestic-violence training course, a program manager asked if they could hire her on a part-time basis and still have it count toward her internship.

The difference between the community prevention side of the job and the intervention side with casework and counsel and advocacy was rather stark. Yet it suddenly unfolded into a full-time offer that Presher cleared with her internship supervisor.

“He supported me and the rest is history,’’ Presher said. “Within like three weeks, I was hired part time and now within maybe six weeks I’m full-time. This agency moves very fast. I’m juggling the judicial system, the law and people, so there are a lot of intricate parts of the puzzle. I’ve committed to a year working there, or interning, whatever the case is going to be.’’

That year encompasses graduation ceremonies in May. Presher wavered on returning to Penn State to walk but said instead of incurring those expenses that most likely her family would come to Hawaii to celebrate.

In her spare time, she hikes with friends, goes to the beach and explores restaurants with an aunt with whom she resides; swimming with dolphins remains on her bucket list. Presher also does some island-hopping, knows areas to visit as well as ones to avoid and stays in touch with her Penn State friends who are some 4,800 miles away.

“Passion is, I think, the single word I would use to describe her,’’ said Catherine Augustine, academic adviser and affiliate assistant professor of education (learning, design and technology). “She is always looking for ways to be involved -- authentically involved -- and for ways to help change the world into a better place.’’ 

Presher’s busy agenda stretches to February 2016 when she’ll walk across the country with the American Indian Movement. Presher said she had spent some time on the Ojibwe (American) Indian Reservation in Minnesota and befriended co-founder Dennis Banks.

“We will travel 30 miles a day and spread the word to communities and educate native communities – and other communities – that diabetes is reversible,’’ Presher said. “We’ll talk about living a healthy lifestyle and talking about the culture specifically and whatever else comes along on the journey, because I’m sure there will be a lot.’’

Graduate school in Penn State’s master’s of education counseling program beginning in August 2016 also is a possibility after the nationwide walk. That’s on the heels of earning dean’s list status every semester.

“Penn State has provided me a lot,’’ Presher said. “It definitely is one of the best decisions that I ever made and I’m really glad that I stuck it out. Even if I don’t use my degree in a career specifically for human services, I have learned so much just about being a human being and being able to apply and adapt my skills to whatever arena I’m in.

“I’m very grateful.’’

Last Updated April 01, 2015