My first experience with HCO was around sophomore year when my advisor and Social Work Professor, Jay Palmer, informed me about the organization. I had a few classmates who enjoyed working at HCO as well. At the time, I wasn’t looking for a job, but it’s something I kept on my radar.

When senior year approached, my peers and I were on a search for internships for our final semester in Spring 2022. I interviewed with a few different places, unsure of where I wanted to go. My Social Work Professor, Dr. Anne VandeBerg, advised me to set up an interview with HCO because it might be a good fit for me. Remembering what I learned back in sophomore year, I got in touch with Madeline Hoesley from Human Resources for an interview. After that, we set up an additional interview over Zoom to see where I would fit best. I decided to go with HCO because of their desire to teach and their flexibility. My main priority was looking for an internship that valued people and loved to teach, which is what I have found at HCO!

One of my favorite things from my internship so far is that I have been given the opportunity to have a dual learning experience. I’ve learned about the role of a Direct Support Professional and about the administrative work a Coordinator does. There have been many instances where I was able to revisit material I learned from my classes at WSU and apply them at my internship.

The family-like atmosphere at HCO has provided staff with great communication skills, strong relationships, and team collaboration. What I love most about this organization is that everyone treats you like a person and not just an employee. I was slightly nervous going into my program because I had never worked in this field before. That quickly faded because everyone was welcoming, encouraging, supportive, and caring toward one another, no matter what role you are in. It’s something I’ve rarely seen in the workforce and that is why I am extremely grateful I chose HCO.

I have been given the opportunity to grow in multiple ways during my internship. One of those is being able to learn and use basic living skills. With clients, I have learned the method and benefit of using redirection for behaviors. For my specific program, there is use of American Sign Language (ASL), and I have loved being introduced to it! It has opened a whole new communication field for me. I’ve always wanted to learn ASL, and now I’ve gotten to learn some signs. This helped me build stronger rapport with the clients, and I was able to better understand the barriers they face. As a social worker, it is important for us to recognize and address these barriers.

In addition, I’ve attended division meetings weekly, a Grassroots meeting, trainings, and Virtual Day at the Capitol. These are a few things I participated in that helped me grow my professional identity and improve my communication skills. I have also become more familiar with policy practice. Some things I have been learning about a lot are medication administration, money management and finances, documentation, and running reports (and more!). All of these opportunities have contributed to my great learning experience and have helped me grow into a more confident person.

This internship has expanded my education and has given me a wealth of knowledge of what it means to be a Social Worker and a Direct Support Professional. I have learned a variety of skills and values that I will use in my future as a Social Worker. Thank you to the full-time and part-time staff who have shown me patience and kindness while teaching me about your roles and sharing your views. Thank you, HCO, for taking me in as an intern. Thank you to the other Coordinators who let me visit your programs to see different environments. Lastly, thank you to my supervisor, Amber Weaver (LSW), for teaching me what it takes to be a great Social Worker! It has been a pleasure interning at HCO.

Kenzie Lyga was an intern this spring at our Pleasant Valley program.