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Internships give students a chance to take on new responsibilities — and adventures. For example, this summer, Talia Boren will be waking up before sunrise each morning to gather data on sea turtles at the Loggerhead Marinelife Center in Juno Beach, Florida. “I’m excited to learn the skills necessary to work with animals in the field,” says Boren, a Biology major.

Jose Ruiz, a Risk Management and Insurance major, will be living in the dorms at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia while participating in a 10-week program at Philadelphia Insurance Companies, which promises networking, mentoring, and job training. “I am looking forward to my journey with Philadelphia,” says Ruiz, who is especially eager to learn about technological tools and career options.

Estelina Kovacs plans to spend two months acquiring Lengua de Señas Mexicana (LSM) while working with Deaf children at a school in Mexico City. Going abroad, staying with a host family, and developing her teaching skills is the perfect plan for Kovacs, who majors in International Studies and Spanish. “This experience will expose me to new perspectives and ways of thinking,” Kovacs says.

Other students will be in similar positions around the world, getting familiar with how organizations operate and preparing for their futures. “Internships help our students infuse their dreams and academics into lifelong career learning,” says Dr. Julie Tibbitt, EdS ’18 & PhD ’20, Director of Gallaudet’s Office for Career Success (OCS), which facilitates connections between students, faculty, alumni, and employers to enable these opportunities.

By working closely with faculty, OCS determines which employers can best complement and supplement what students are studying in the classroom. “OCS views our faculty as experts in their line of profession and, therefore, well positioned to advise our students meaningfully on their career choices,” Tibbitt adds.

So how can students make the most out of their experiences? We talked to two students who graduated last week about what made their recent internships memorable and meaningful.

Aireyonah Crockett, ’23
When she walked at Commencement on May 12, Crockett was the first person to graduate from Gallaudet with the newly created Black Deaf Studies minor. The distinction feels especially important for Crockett, who was not able to fully explore her identity before arriving at Gallaudet in 2019. “I’m Black, Deaf, and identify as non-binary,” says Crockett, who is from Spokane, Washington and the only Deaf person in her family. “So when I was growing up, I was always the odd one out.”

Aireyonah is standing with a brick wall in the background. Wearing a dark shirt and white lab, she has glasses and short curly brown hair.
Aireyonah Crockett, ’23.

At Gallaudet, she started to build the connections and community she craved. “But let’s be honest — we don’t feel a lot of Black culture on campus,” Crockett says. The exception is the Center for Black Deaf Studies (CBDS), so when Director Dr. Carolyn McCaskill, ’77, G-’79, & PhD ’05, offered her an internship with the team there this past semester, Crockett jumped at the opportunity. Crockett remembers that on her first day of work as student engagement coordinator and program support specialist, Associate Director Evon Black,’86 & G-’96, told her, “During your time here, you will be challenged and you will grow.”

Both predictions came true, says Crockett, who was encouraged to think creatively to highlight Black heritage and bring the energy of CBDS to students. Over 85 people turned out for the first event she organized, a visit from the D.C. Retro Jumpers, who offer Double Dutch demonstrations and lessons. It was a thrill to see participants express themselves and experience Black joy, Crockett says. That feeling returned last month, when she collaborated on an event with the Howard University step team, which performed on campus for a crowd of 150 people that included children from Kendall Demonstration Elementary School. “Since then, a lot of students from Howard and Gallaudet have been going out and dancing together,” Crockett says. And some Gallaudet students are planning to start their own step team in the fall.

Although her internship officially ended earlier, Crockett was still in charge of more events Commencement week: a photo shoot for graduating Black students and the first annual Black Student Graduation Celebration and Recognition Ceremony. The latter was a way to congratulate students for the hard work they have done over the past few years, through COVID and other challenges, as well as honor the 23 Black children who went to the segregated Kendall School Division II at Gallaudet in the 1950s. Crockett lined up impressive speakers for the event, including Chief Bilingual Officer Dr. Laurene Simms and Interim Chief Diversity Officer Dr. Elizabeth Moore, ’81, G-‘94, & PhD ’11.

As she graduates with a major in Deaf Studies — and four minors: ASL, Family Studies, Linguistics, and Black Deaf Studies — Crockett considers herself so fortunate to have had an internship role that empowered her to use her skills and passions to lead. “Now it’s time for another person to come in and I want them to do even more amazing things,” she says.

Ryan Parkinson, ’14 and G-’23
While completing his Master of Social Work degree remotely from Calgary in Alberta, Canada, Parkinson could not find any internship opportunities with organizations in his area. So he cast a wider net, and wound up landing two internships that he could do entirely online: My Deaf Therapy (MDT), which offers telehealth counseling in ASL, and Missouri-based advocacy organization DEAF Inc.

It was rewarding to be involved with multiple projects, Parkinson says. MDT, which was created by Dr. Heather Hunt, ’92 & PhD ’97, provided experience working directly with clients. With their permission, he recorded sessions he led, so he could get feedback from his supervisor. “We reviewed different approaches and theories,” he says.

Ryan is sitting at a coffee shop. Wearing a black sweatshirt with glasses, long beard and is bald.
Ryan Parkinson, ’14 and G – ’23.

Parkinson also hosted a presentation on the benefits of psychedelic-assisted therapy, which encouraged clients to consider another option for recovery. “Many members of the Deaf community experience information deprivation and end up being the last to learn new information. This up-and-coming, multidisciplinary approach could potentially transform the landscape of therapy,” Parkinson says. “I want to make sure the Deaf community knows the latest evidence-based practices in mental health.”

For DEAF Inc., he helped create educational videos for Deaf people who have been diagnosed with cancer. “There is a scarcity of resources available to them in ASL,” explains Parkinson, who detailed what to discuss with a doctor and how to prepare for treatment.

“Both internships have given me opportunities to give back to the Deaf community,” Parkinson says. And they gave him the opportunity to provide a bridge between two organizations that had no prior knowledge of each other. He was motivated to connect them and find ways they can work together to provide support. “They can build a strong network with access to information instead of barriers,” he says.

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