My name is Katelyn Keller, and I typically go by Kati. I’m a junior at Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota (SMU), majoring in literature with a writing emphasis and minoring in digital media and journalism. Throughout my fall semester, I’ve been with Home and Community Options (HCO) as a writing intern.
I can definitely see myself in a writing-related field as a potential future career. I’ve been passionate about writing and editing since my freshman year of high school, and my internship confirmed my passion all the more, especially the Ballet Hispánico article I wrote and the articles I edited.
Working with words can be like playing the piano— I get a sort of “euphoria” with the flow and get caught up in the experience or process. Notes can flow so gracefully and produce such wonderful sounds together; similarly, words and ideas can flow beautifully together. The subtle nuances of different words and phrasing also intrigue me. Of course, there are struggles, but there’s something satisfying about when the various components come together and turn into something coherent, sensible, and aesthetically pleasing.
I heard about HCO through SMU’s career and internships fair last spring. I’d researched a number of companies and organizations that would be at the fair, and HCO stuck out to me because of its mission, vision, and core values.
HCO’s principles reminded me of Jean Vanier’s Becoming Human, which discusses the need to accept and engage with individuals with disabilities. I’d finished reading Vanier’s book around the time of the fair, and it struck me. A large part of why, I think, is because one of my younger sisters has developmental disabilities, and I’ve seen her struggles and how certain people negatively treated or do treat her because of them.
I actually hadn’t expected to hear back from anybody from the fair; I’d just gone for the experience. However, HCO contacted me towards the end of the semester about a potential writing internship. Since my major requires an internship and because of the connections I saw between HCO and Vanier, I figured HCO would be an excellent opportunity.
My main responsibilities at HCO were writing- and communication-related. I wrote a pitch letter and press release, edited various articles, wrote a couple of articles, attended communication meetings, did some scanning, and worked with social media. I also got experience developing content for hiring, writing agency announcements, and writing PSAs. The only thing I can think of that I now wish I’d had experience with is seeing how the monthly newsletter gets put together and sent out.
I think that the mentality of modern American society can become too hectic at times with its constant drive to do more, do better, do faster. But sometimes, we need to just step back so that we don’t become overwhelmed. At one point, I was doing more manual things, which included taping nearly a thousand PEZ candies to cards that announced HCO’s 2020 musical for an upcoming event. This sort of work gave me that opportunity, and I found it refreshing. An individual supported by HCO helped me with the PEZ, and getting to know her was a joy.
Writing an article about Ballet Hispánico was my favorite project. Positive energy and engagement abounded throughout the adaptive dance session, and I had some wonderful conversations when interviewing some of the instructors and a couple of individuals supported by HCO who attended the session. I could really feel everybody’s excitement and passion.
Prior to this internship, there was only one interview I’d conducted that lasted over five minutes. The interviews for the musical intern article I wrote lasted around 15 minutes. I wasn’t surprised by the length or prospect of interviewing, but I hadn’t expected to hold three longer ones all in one week. They were good learning experiences.
I’ve found that I like to understand things right away, but will push myself to learn what I don’t immediately grasp. Related to this, I tend to try solving things by myself and find it harder to reach out to others for help right away. This can be a good trait, showing perseverance and self-motivation. It also leaves room for growth. For example, I learned that clear and constant communication, as well as relationships with coworkers, is essential in the workplace. I found that I can be more comfortable than I’d thought interacting with people I don’t know in a new setting.
I was musing a few weeks ago about relationships and the influence we have on each other. I think that being aware of others’ expectations (or not even expectations, but just observations), makes people feel pressured to not just meet expectations, but exceed them. Impress the observers. Reflecting about this more, I think I feel driven less for others’ praise and more to prove something to myself. And the responses of observers are what I set up as judges for whether or not I’ve proved myself to myself.
This relates to something I greatly appreciate about HCO. HCO supports individuals with disabilities and strives to not just respect them as humans, but also to believe in their abilities and encourage them in constructive ways. There isn’t pressure to be “better” than they are, but to be the best as they are.
I highly recommend HCO as a place to intern or volunteer with. In addition to the variety of experiences I got, the people I’ve worked with have also been supportive and informative. Overall, this internship has given me invaluable experiences in a professional setting that has allowed me to develop not just academically or professionally, but also personally.
Home and Community Options had the opportunity to host Saint Mary’s University student, Katelyn Keller, as our Marketing Intern in the fall of 2019. Before she left, Katelyn shared some thoughts on her experiences here at HCO.