Tuesday, June 21, 2011

A Grateful Intern Shares Her Story

Three weeks into my new job, I am so grateful for the experiences I had at Alternative House as an intern. I graduated in May with a Masters of Clinical Mental Health Counseling from George Washington University, and I was one of the few people in my program who had a great job lined up. At Alternative House, I had the opportunity to interact with key community agencies in Northern Virginia, such as Child Protective Services, Foster Care, and the Juvenile Court system, and this gave me an advantage when interviewing for positions in government counseling agencies. Additionally, I had the freedom to explore and develop new aspects of counseling, like bilingual counseling, that set me apart from the other applicants. Though interning in a crisis residential facility can be stressful, I would not trade the experience for any other.

An element that makes Alternative House so unique is the diversity of the teens. Teens from all backgrounds live together, and they feel safe to explore their differences and similarities. The staff at Alternative House facilitates respectful conversations about controversial topics, such as race and religion, that adults typically shy away from because they can be uncomfortable. The teens appreciate being able to ask questions of one another, and hopefully these teens will be leaders who help us as a society to come together despite our differences.

The most inspiring moment of my internship took place just before bedtime. Two boys were sharing a bedroom, one Muslim and one Christian. The Christian boy returned from the shower to find his roommate saying his prayers. He waited respectfully outside the bedroom door until his roommate had finished praying. The Muslim boy looked up when he had finished and invited him in. The Christian boy said, “Hey man, I didn’t know you were Muslim. I don’t really know anything about it. Can I ask you some questions?” And the Muslim boy responded, “Ask anything you want.” The two sat down and began discussing religion. It was a beautiful moment. I hope the experience sticks with them, and I hope that the staff at Alternative House continues to make it a safe place for kids to ask questions and openly discuss important themes.

Cynthia Baleskie


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