This is a part of my final internship report -- my internship comes to a close this Thursday. Some of it may be a bit redundant, but I'd like to explain in more detail how I think my time here relates to my Shimer education.
The most moving element of this internship has been rooted in its hands-on nature, which is in some ways directly opposed to what I do at Shimer. While the study of feminist theories, for example, allows an exploration of different theoretical platforms of issues like gender, trauma, or education, my experiences within the framework of Chicago’s social services, these women’s mental illnesses, the tangible resources I am able to provide, the stories that come from traumatized women, seem so much more real. In retrospect (though perhaps I knew it then) I think this is largely why I had to overcome so much self-consciousness and nervousness – because while I knew what I thought politically or theoretically about welfare, about mental illness, about sexual abuse, to implement theory in real practice within a given discourse is not like sitting around a table talking about it. I do not mean to devalue my education at Shimer, but instead to express how much I value what it allowed me to learn at Deborah’s Place. I was able to root my theoretical knowledge and political beliefs in the real situations with which I have helped women who are or have been homeless in a large American city. I have done some fine-tuning and reevaluating impossible without time out of the class room. This will improve (and has already improved) my discussion skills and the quality of my arguments at Shimer and elsewhere.
In spite of the lack of constant guidance inherent in my position as Case Manager, the Learning Center Coordinator and I met one-on-one whenever either of us felt it was necessary or beneficial. We discussed the women with whom I was working or would be working. We discussed my progress. She gave me lists of things it would be helpful to research, such as certain mental illnesses or city programs for the homeless. She was always willing to answer a question, direct me to a resource, or help me find an answer she didn’t have. Betty, my supervisor and the DP director of programs, was also very supportive. We had about four supervision sessions throughout the summer, during which she directed her full attention to understanding what I needed help with and asked questions about how and what I was doing. She also gave thorough feedback and suggestions based on her own observations. The staff at Deborah’s Place is very communicative, and much less hierarchical than those in organizations I have worked with in the past. (The Executive Director is often wandering around the building talking to whichever women she passes.) I received assistance and advice from nearly every staff member in the building on at least one occasion, often regularly. I got to know many more than just the women on my case load, and many more than just the staff in the Learning Center. I was offered an interview for a position as the weekend case manager for residents at the Rebecca Johnson Apartments in the Jackson site of Deborah’s Place. I was also offered a position as a substitute staff member at Teresa’s and at the Safe Haven. I was asked to stay as the case manager for off-site women through the school year, hours for which I will receive Federal Work Study payment. I look forward to continuing at Deborah’s Place, and I am thrilled to have been able, via the Kemper grant, to both learn from and make an impact in the lives of women who are or have been homeless in
I’ve attempted to avoid idiomatic clichés, because what I am doing is more than “life-changing.” Though my eyes are clearer and more open than they were three months ago, the term “eye-opening” doesn’t cut it. I am learning about praxis, about overcoming the dualistic obstacle of thought opposing action.