This is the second post in a series of four posts written by the Summer 2020 Honors Internship Fellows. The students received a stipend that enabled them to work at non-profit organizations for the common good.
Author: Amalia Sordo Palacios, sophomore
The Covid-19 pandemic would have made obtaining an unpaid internship impossible for me this summer, which is why I am incredibly grateful to Dr. Keller for awarding me with the Honors Program Summer Fellowship Grant that made my work possible. I had the opportunity to intern with Autism Community Network, a nonprofit in San Antonio that serves children by providing autism diagnostic services, occupational and speech therapy, and classes for parents and caretakers of kids diagnosed with ASD (autism spectrum disorder). Because I began working with ACN at the same time that they started transitioning to telehealth, I witnessed a historic shift in the way autism diagnoses are performed and, alongside my coworkers, learned how to make remote services successful.
Some of my roles included observing diagnostic and therapy appointments, administering the social media platforms, serving as a translator for Spanish-speaking families, and conducting research to assist with the grant-writing process. By working alongside clinical professionals, I learned a lot about careers in healthcare. I was reminded of the Honors Program’s interdisciplinary curriculum while observing how the diagnostic team came to a decision: each clinician specialized in a different field, but their collaboration and input ensured a more accurate autism diagnosis for the child. I also worked on finding research to support several grants; this was really exciting because I learned more about the real-world applications of neuroscience (my intended major). I was even able to give a presentation to parents about my own experiences growing up with a sibling with ASD.
Throughout my internship, I reflected on the Honors Program’s idea of being scholars for justice and how it connected to my work. Prior to the pandemic, autism diagnoses were difficult to obtain due to long waitlists, shortages of trained professionals, and geographic barriers. I thought the pandemic would exacerbate these issues; however, I found that the transition to telehealth was a step towards ensuring accessibility for all families by helping them overcome geographic or financial barriers. ACN also developed a new program for parents struggling with mental health issues, supporting the Jesuit tradition of cura personalis. Through this internship, I’ve had the chance to explore different career paths and observe concrete examples of the role that the tradition of homines pro aliis (men and women for others) plays in nonprofit organizations. Despite working fully remotely, I was able to do really meaningful work this summer, all made possible with the Honors Program’s support.