Professor Deanna Durham (front left) with students at the Washington Community Scholars' Center in Washington D.C., a cross-cultural program of Eastern Mennonite University. Back, from left: Kyle Mathews, Austin Every (Bluffton), Ben Durren, Austin Huff. Back middle: Joshua Sydenstricker, Kaitlin Miller, Jeremy Good, Laken Richer. Front middle: Taylor Esau, Emma Petersheim, Taylor Mirarchi. Front: Dr. Durham, Rebekah Wheat, Azariah Cox. (Photo by Karlyn Gehring)

Summer 2017 at WCSC: students intern with NASA, the Smithsonian Institute, midwives, physical therapists and more

Assisting at home births, seeing the bullet that killed President Garfield and rewriting an accounting policies handbook are just some of the on-the-job experiences enjoyed by the 13 students in Eastern Mennonite University’s Washington Community Scholars’ Center (WCSC) this summer.

At the heart of the WCSC program are professional internships in a variety of settings where students make positive contributions to the community and gain vocational direction. But students also get to experience city life, explore Washington’s cultural and historic attractions, learn about issues such as gentrification, and manage a house budget and relationships in the communal living environment of the Nelson Good House.

Kyle Mathews joined the program to try out a profession in his area of study. A kinesiology and exercise science major from Chesapeake, Virginia, Mathews said that assisting with physical therapy at PIVOT Physical Therapy has allowed him to learn more about anatomy and physiology, plus gain hands-on experience that reinforces and deepens his understanding of the concepts learned in coursework at EMU.

Given his choice of clientele from the diversity of groups his clinic serves, Mathews said he prefers to work with injured athletes. As a former athlete who has undergone physical therapy, he feels he understands the mental, physical and emotional impact of sports injuries.

“I’ve been there,” he said. “I know how it hurts and what they’re going through as patients. Interning gives me a new perspective, from the other side.”

The placement is also pushing Mathews beyond learning just the technical skills of a physical therapist. “You have to learn through observation, by feel, to work with different people who respond in different ways to therapy,” he said. “Some people take longer than others, so you have to nudge them along.”

Mathew’s peers in the summer 2017 WCSC program represent diverse professional interests:

  • Azariah Cox, a photography major from Lynchburg, Virginia, is at the Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum.
  • Ben Durren, a history major from Gloucester, Virginia, said that a highlight was seeing the bullet that killed President Garfield. Durren is collecting and organizing archives for researchers, and cataloging new additions to the collections for the Historical Society of Washington D.C.
  • At Christ House, a medical facility for homeless people, biochemistry major Taylor Esau, of Hesston, Kansas, washes laundry and provides wound care for patients. “I have really enjoyed the interactions and relationships I’ve built,” she said.
  • Austin Every, a Bluffton University internet technology and graphic design major from Zanesville, Ohio, is interning at NASA.
  • Jeremy Good, an accounting major from Rantoul, Illinois, is interning at YMCA Association Services, where in addition to being asked to rewrite and reformat the current accounting policies handbook, he does payment collection, member termination and reinstatement, general payroll duties, accounts receivable analysis and other miscellaneous accounting and finance tasks.
  • Math and computer science major Austin Huff is interning at the Smithsonian Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO). Huff, who comes from the small town of Culpeper, Virginia, said he’s enjoying living in a large city.
  • A camp counselor at Little Friends for Peace, Kaitlin Miller said that her highlights of the summer include working with kids and being able to explore Washington’s monuments and museums. She is a social work major from Sellersville, Pennsylvania.
  • Nursing major Taylor Mirarchi of Souderton, Pennsylvania, uses an exclamation mark when she writes that she is “seeing babies being born!” As an intern at Metro Area Midwives and Allied Services (MAMAS) Inc., she is taking blood pressures, going to home visits, helping birth assistants during births, and taking care of children while parents are in labor.
  • Emma Petersheim, a social work major from Linville, Virginia, is at Sitar Arts Center, which offers arts education programs to more than 800 students a year, 80 percent of whom come from low-income households.
  • Digital media major Laken Richer, from New Paris, Indiana, is a media intern at the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage.
  • Joshua Sydenstricker, a psychology major from Virginia Beach, is monitoring and assisting with group sessions at Samaritan Inns, a housing and recovery service that gives homeless or at-risk individuals who suffer from drug and alcohol addictions the opportunity to rebuild their lives.
  • At the Capital Area Food Bank, Rebekah Wheat, a digital media major from Dillsburg, Pennsylvania, said she is using her creativity as she works with the marketing team to make handouts and videos.