Social Work Connects to the Community
Lily Rothenberg, Class of 2016
As a sophomore, I received a funding for a summer internship from SGA's Responsible Citizenship Award. As an intern for the nonprofit organization Backstretch Employee Service Team (B.E.S.T.),
I helped provide social services to the impoverished workers of Saratoga's thoroughbred
racetrack. By the time I left the track each day, I was aware of having improved at
least one person’s life. During my first hour of work in the office, I helped a man
renew his visa so he could continue work in Saratoga during the racing season. Without
my help that day, he would have struggled to stay in this country despite his dedication
to his job and his years of hard labor on the backside of American racetracks.
The racetrack felt like the perfect work setting for me. I had easy access to the stables, which meant I could meet racehorses and also observe workers engaging with them. Because of my passion for horses and my knowledge of horse racing, I could easily identify dangerous behaviors that inexperienced workers engaged in that increased the risk of injury to both animal and handler. Many backstretch workers knew minimal protocol for handling 1,200-pound, half-trained animals. While providing health care and workers’ compensation to clients, I saw many cases that could have been avoided with basic horsemanship training. I proposed offering free lectures on the safe handling of horses and might consider providing these lectures on New York racetracks after graduation.
When I arrived at B.E.S.T., donated items were dispensed to clients randomly, based on convenience. I proved myself a reliable and responsible resource for B.E.S.T. by creating an orderly, fair, first-come-first-serve donation system. Items such as bikes, refrigerators, air conditioners, and mattresses are given to the first person who reports needing that item each racing season. A client named Pablo was moved to the top of the list for donated bikes. Pablo spent his free time keeping his coworkers out of trouble, guiding them away from drugs and instead toward spirituality. He made long treks to nearby churches to keep himself busy and would then enlighten others with his newfound spiritual knowledge. When Pablo came to pick up a newly donated bicycle, he told us that this bike would make these trips—and therefore his life—much easier. His kind eyes were brimming with tears as he took each staff member and volunteer by the hand and sincerely thanked us.
As my internship came to a close, I found it hard to fathom being away from B.E.S.T. for long because of how profoundly it changed my life. I grew more confident in my ability to excel as a social worker because I gained practice in handling tough social and ethical situations that I will likely face during my future careers. I developed professional skills that often take years to establish due to my summer experience at B.E.S.T. I will never forget the people I have met this summer, nor my experiences as an intern in “the summer place to be,” but most importantly, I will always be grateful to Skidmore College for making this life-changing opportunity possible for me.
Rene Alpert, Class of 2015
This summer I had the amazing opportunity to intern at two organizations that complemented my social work education thanks to the SEE-Beyond Award and the Social Work Department. The SEE-Beyond award is one of the many funded internship awards Skidmore offers to students interning over the summer. I would encourage any student even considering an unpaid internship to check out the link below and learn how you can get Skidmore funding. Each internship offered me something different and allowed me to explore the social work field through different lenses and with different populations.
My first internship was at Brooklyn Defender Services, which offers legal services to clients who would not be able to retain a lawyer otherwise. There are social workers on staff to place clients in treatment programs and provide verbal and written advocacy for court cases. During my time there I helped find programs, read mitigation reports, attend court, and meet clients to be another member of their support team. At this internship I was able to see what a social worker does in the criminal justice system and also get practice working with clients. For social work students considering law school or even ones interested in the criminal justice system, interning at a public defenders office will give you a great chance to see what happens from both a law and social work standpoint.
My second internship was at a Refugee Youth Summer Academy, run by the International Rescue Committee. This Summer Academy was for refugee youth who had limited formal education, but were planning on entering the New York City public school system in the fall. The students were using this summer to get used to formal education so they would be more comfortable going to school. I was a Peer Counselor for high school students and assisted in daily classroom activities. This included leading group activities, tutoring, homework help, and most importantly encouraging the students to practice speaking English. As a Peer Counselor, I was also a mentor to my students and offered any advice I could. For social work students considering going into an education setting, a summer school will show you what it would be like to work in this type of environment.
If you have any questions about my experience, internships, or the Skidmore awards, you can e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org!
International Rescue Committee website. Check out the volunteer section for opportunities to get involved!