Internships are a bit of an “unknown quantity” – you never know exactly what you are going to get. When I started my internship with GiGi’s Playhouse Rockford four months ago, I suspected that I would really enjoy it. What I didn’t know is that I would end up falling in love with the participants, staff, volunteers, and mission of the Playhouse! From day one, I was welcomed with open arms into a “family” that learns and grows together.
GiGi’s Playhouse staff has helped me to grow in my career skills and goals. At GiGi’s, each person (whether they are a staff member, a volunteer or an intern) brings their own talents, but they work as a team. Each individual is a critical link in the chain to providing meaningful services for participants and their families. The opportunity to develop lesson plans was a great “hands-on” learning experience for me. Most of the plans I created involved social skills and sensory activities. It was awesome to watch the participants challenge themselves, try new things, and make strides towards their “Best of All.”
One of my most rewarding experiences involved a participant who struggles greatly with communication. I wanted to help her find a more efficient way to express her wants, needs, thoughts, and ideas. So, I designed and put together a communication book for her, and she embraced the opportunity. Her face lit up as others understood what she was trying to tell them!
Another highlight of my internship was creating the “GiGi’s Store” for our GiGi U participants. With the use of “GiGi Bucks,” our participants have been able to practice real-life buying scenarios. We have also been able to reinforce the concepts of responsibility, honesty, respect, independence, and kindness by offering chances for them to earn GiGi Bucks by demonstrating these values. The participants have shown a real understanding of the importance of these values, and it feels great to be a part of something so positive.
GiGi’s Playhouse means family, friendship, and happiness to me. The Playhouse is a fun, caring learning environment where each person is accepted, respected, and valued. It’s rare to be able to say that you looked forward to going to work, but with GiGi’s, that has been the truth. As my internship comes to an end, I can honestly say that I am going to miss both the staff and all the incredible participants. If you are a college student looking for a great internship experience, or a volunteer looking for a meaningful connection, you should reach out at https://gigisplayhouse.org/rockford/volunteer. You won’t regret it!