Hello! This is Jessica. As many of you know, I have been the intern here at GiGi’s since January. Unfortunately, Friday, April 28th, was my last day. I have an incredible experience and gained a wealth of valuable experience during my time here, and I wanted to use this space to talk about my time here.
I grew up in San Francisco, California. I moved to Chicago in 2010 to attend the University of Chicago, where I received a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology with Honors. During college, I volunteered with Comer Children’s Hospital, tutored at Strive Tutoring, and worked at a summer camp near Yosemite.
After graduating, I started a Masters program at the Erikson Institute in downtown Chicago. In a few weeks, I will be graduating with a Masters in Child Development with Child Life Specialization. During grad school, I have worked as a preschool teacher, completed child life practicums at La Rabida Children’s Hospital and Chicago Children’s Advocacy Center, completed an internship with Make-A-Wish Illinois, and spent a week at Camp Quality Illinois.
This summer, I will be in Los Angeles completing a child life internship at UCLA Mattel Children’s Hospital. After the summer, I’m planning to move home to San Francisco and look for a child life position in a children’s hospital.
I first heard about GiGi’s Playhouse from my friend and fellow classmate, Elizabeth Noreen. Elizabeth interned with the GiGi’s Tinley Park Playhouse last year, and now works at the Hoffman Estates location. I emailed Amy Archer, the Chicago director, last fall to ask about completing my spring internship requirement. I was excited to work with a new population in an environment that focuses on development, family, and community. I was won over by Amy’s description of GiGi’s Playhouse as a place where children and adults with Down syndrome are celebrated.
I’ve been working on a lot of different projects this semester. We had just begun using the iPads when I started in January, so I helped get our technology program off the ground. I worked on making the iPads accessible and easy to use, and wrote instructions on photos, games, and music. I’ve also been working on the online blog. I got to interview Jenny Popova and Grace Gibbs for our last two volunteer spotlights, and I’ve been editing the blog posts and accompanying Facebook posts for the last few months. I’ve enjoyed working on the ways GiGi’s Playhouse connects with our families through technology – it is something I haven’t done in a professional setting, and I know this experience will be useful in my future career.
I have also been lucky to be a literacy tutor for the winter session. Tutoring was a great way for me work one-on-one with a student, and gain an understanding of the experiences of our wonderful volunteer tutors. I’ve gotten to spend a lot of time with Owen, my student, who also comes to the Playhouse for Open Play on Fridays. I’ve enjoyed getting to meet all of the families that come to Open Play – including some of our regulars, like Alexis and Noah. I love facilitating social play, leading song sessions, and seeing how the parents benefit from the community environment.
Another way that I have grown during this internship is in working with volunteers. GiGi’s Playhouse is almost entirely run by our amazing volunteers, and I have been lucky to work with a lot of them. I appreciate discussing books with tutors and helping set up for Get Fit or Cooking Club.
I’ve also done a number of small projects behind the scenes, including making flyers, assembling tutoring kits, organizing photos, and emailing families. Overall, I have had a great, diverse set of experiences, both behind the scenes and working directly with children and families. I have grown as a professional during this internship, and I am excited to use my skills in future professional settings. I am so thankful to all of our families, volunteers, and of course Amy for her supervision and dedication to the playhouse. Hopefully I can come visit in September!
Thank you, Jessica! We will miss you very much. Are you interested in interning at GiGi’s Playhouse Chicago? Or know a college student who is? Please contact Amy at firstname.lastname@example.org for more info. We are currently looking for summer and fall interns.