Two summers ago, Jillian Kuhn ’13 interned for The Afya Foundation, an organization that provides medical supplies to international health organizations and professionals to help serve health centers in Africa. At Afya, Kuhn learned how to provide physical aid to marginalized people, and this experience supported her passion and interest in international human rights. However, last semester Kuhn took Introduction to Psychology with Jamie Bodenlos, assistant professor of psychology, and decided she wanted to help people in crisis by aiding them mentally and emotionally. This is an area she believes is often overlooked by international aid organizations in crises such as the earthquake in Haiti or the floods in Pakistan. After doing some research, she found her dream internship at the Andrus Children’s Center, located in Yonkers, N.Y. Andrus’ campus, community and mental health divisions serve 2,500 children and families annually.
After an extensive interview process, Kuhn landed the internship and began standard therapist training at the Center early in the summer. She was trained in Therapeutic Crisis Intervention (TCI) and became a New York State mandated reporter. Once her training was complete, Kuhn began as a Milieu Therapist Intern, working with a group of boys ages 7 to 15, who were dependent, live-in residents at the Center. These boys were seriously emotionally disturbed, most with Autism Spectrum Disorders, including sever Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Oppositional Defiance Disorder, and other mental and learning disabilities.
Kuhn was quick to point out that “no day was like the one before.” However, most days began with her greeting the boys at their cottage after summer school. Her position at the Center was focused around working to safely transition the boys through the remainder of the day from summer school to bed. The group would begin their time together with a reflective meeting about the day, then continue to do fun activities such as playing sports, watching movies, fishing in the pond, biking and getting ice cream before dinner. After dinner they would enjoy more free time, then clean their room and slowly begin to prepare for bed.
The most difficult part of the internship, she noted, was watching the boys take their traumatic pasts into their day to day life. It was hard to watch them lash out against others or themselves, but she mentioned that the theme of the Andrus Children’s Center is to always remember that “It is not what is wrong with the child but what has happened to the child.” This statement helped Kuhn to grow as an intern and helped her create strong relationships with the boys she was leading and teaching.
While she adored her internship this past summer, she still felt a strong connection to helping those in need internationally as she had with Afya, so she started a program with her cottage that connected the two experiences. She brought her boys to The Afya Foundation warehouse, where they volunteered their time to help sort medical supplies. She notes she could not have been more pleased at the outcome of this success, as the boys were all so thrilled to be able to help other people out, and give back like so many people do for them. She said this was one of the best moments of the summer, when her boys thanked her for working with them and bringing them to the volunteer site.
Kuhn wants to continue to work with children, and hopes to explore her passion for disaster therapy. However, she knows she will always have a place at the Andrus Children’s Center.