Co-op stories: Student seizes potential with therapy center internship

Courtney Weikel
July 29, 2021

Editor's note: This story is part of a series profiling the summer 2021 internship experiences of undergraduate students participating in Penn State Schuylkill Co-Op. For more stories like Session's, visit schuylkill.psu.edu/co-op-stories. The series is written by Courtney Weikel, a fourth-year Penn State Schuylkill student majoring in corporate communication and completing her summer internship in the campus’s Office of Strategic Communications.

POTTSVILLE, PA—Penn State Schuylkill second-year student Poetic Session found her perfect internship match at Gym-Jam Therapeutics, a therapy center serving individuals with autism and other special needs in Pottsville, Pa. Through her internship, Session has been able to get real-world working experience in her chosen field of psychology.

“I chose this specific internship because I wanted the experience of working with children without having to travel far from my home,” said Session. “I have also gained experience working with individuals with special needs.”

While interning with Gym-Jam — which offers applied behavior analysis, speech therapy, occupational therapy, and social skills group work — Session recalls a favorite moment: “One specific event that will surely stick with me is the time we set up a water day with the kids! Seeing them so happy and excited while they were squirting me in the face with water guns made the sounds of squeaky shoes and wet clothing worth it.”

For this internship experience, Session received funding from the Josette and Bert Evans Internship Fund at Penn State Schuylkill. Consideration for the award is given to Penn State Schuylkill undergraduates who are participating in an internship, with preference given to those in unpaid internships within Schuylkill County.

Bert Evans, who endowed the internship fund and serves as chairman of the board for the Evans Network of Companies, said, “There’s no better way to enhance your experience at Penn State Schuylkill than to intern at one of Schuylkill County’s incredible businesses. You get to experience in practice much of what you’ve learned in class, and with a number of nationally known companies right here, you may connect to fantastic opportunities for after graduation. The opportunities are limitless!”

Originally from Poughkeepsie, New York, Session has also lived in Philadelphia, and now resides in Saint Clair, Pennsylvania. She is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in psychology, a minor in communication arts and sciences, and an associate degree in human development and family studies.

In addition to participating in Penn State Schuylkill Co-Op, Session is a member of the Penn State Schuylkill Honors Program and TriBeta. During her freshman year, Session presented her sole-authored research at the Eastern Communication Association virtual conference in April 2021. This research was titled “The Two Faces of Jervis Pendleton: A Rhetorical Analysis of Facework in the Musical, 'Daddy Long Legs.'”

Session took a few minutes to describe her experience with the co-op program and as an intern at Gym-Jam Therapeutics.

Q: Describe a day in the life at your internship.

Session: I’m an extra set of hands that can prepare meals, set up projects, ready assignments, take data, clean up, and watch after the kids for a bit. I’ve learned a lot on top of being able to help lighten the load of fellow co-workers.

Q: How have your co-op courses prepared you for your summer internship?

Session: They taught me the skills I needed to get the position (interview skills, soft skills, resume assistance), and I feel more confident knowing that I had the resources I needed to push myself but still ask for help or feedback when needed.

Q: How will this internship prepare you for future careers and with your major?

Session: This internship gave me more insight into possible groups of people I may want to work with in the future while giving me some background on behavior analysis, which is connected to the psychology field.

Student Poetic Session in the hallway with children's art on the wall behind her.
IMAGE: Kim Mousseau
 

Q: Since your internship is working with children with autism at a learning center, how has this impacted you?

Session: I’ve connected quite well with the children there, and the staff are people I would be happy to work with again! This experience taught me to hesitate less and to have fun on the way rather than just observing. It will be so hard for me to leave at the end of the summer since I know I will miss the staff and kids so much.

I also gained more knowledge and understanding of those with special needs. For example, one of the meaningful lessons I learned is how important it is to critique and analyze the field you work in from all perspectives, and I encourage everyone to do so. Looking at psychology and healthcare work from a variety of viewpoints—including those of the people you're serving—can help you make a more conscious choice on what field you want to pursue while listening to all the voices involved in the process.

Q: Are the duties you have in this internship similar to those you would like to pursue in the future?

Session: Absolutely! They are similar since I may work with children, and data collection is very important in most, if not all, fields! Though I may not pursue applied behavior analysis, it is a skill that I will be using in my field regardless.

Q: What advice do you have for students looking to join co-op and find internships?

Session: Ask. For. Help. Finding internships can sometimes be hard and frustrating, but the co-op program has the resources to help you! No question is too silly, and there are staff, faculty and peers right there if you need them. Also, don’t be afraid to get out of your comfort zone while also understanding your limits. It’s important to challenge yourself by working in an unfamiliar environment, but don’t push so much that the experience becomes less enjoyable. Similarly, don’t hesitate too much. Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty if the opportunity is there so you can get the full experience.

To learn more about Penn State Schuylkill Co-Op and how you can get involved as either a student or an employer, visit schuylkill.psu.edu/co-op or contact Kate Zimmerman, director of cooperative education, at ksz5013@psu.edu or 570-385-6296.

Last Updated July 29, 2021