Over and over, we see how internships at The Well Community truly benefit interns and members alike. University of Southern California Master of Social Work intern Valencia Jefferson has experienced these two-way rewards while attending to the behind-the-scenes tasks at The Well.
While working toward a master’s degree in social work with a concentration in administration at the University of Southern California (USC), Valencia Jefferson realized she would need to complete an internship before graduation. She asked her professors for a recommendation, and they pointed her in the direction of The Well Community, which had an opening for a graduate social work intern at the time. Valencia had grown up in the Dallas area, so spending a year in Oak Cliff seemed a good fit. She interviewed at The Well last spring, and for the past eight months has been working there as a graduate social work intern with an administrative focus.
Social workers who concentrate on administrative tasks are perhaps lesser known than those who spend their days working directly with the people they serve. While Valencia spends time interacting directly with Well Community members, most of her work takes place behind the scenes. She is learning about grant writing, program development, and communication and marketing through social media through her daily administrative tasks and other responsibilities.
Valencia loves the administrative side of social work because she can interact directly with the people she wishes to serve while broadening the scope of her abilities to help them on a structural level as well. In this type of role, she’ll be able to advocate for clients at public meetings and apply for funding to help organizations better serve them.
“I can get [experience in] a lot of different aspects of social work by being in administration,” Valencia explains. When she advocates for clients in the future, she will be able to speak to their needs both at a clinical and a managerial level, and together these twin skills will make her a persuasive force for good.
Though much of her day-to-day tasks at The Well occur inside her office, Valencia makes a point to interact with Well members daily. “I’ve learned so much seeing how members live each day,” she shares.
All Well members live in poverty and some are even homeless. Most don’t have enough to eat. And all deal with severe mental illnesses. “I feel like I need to make a difference in society for this population,” she says.
For Valencia, that difference starts with the hard work of creating connections before her office work even begins. She believes she is at The Well Community to build relationships and fellowship with Well members first, and that forms the bedrock of her administrative duties.
Still, this can pose a challenge, as some of the members are not as open as others; and it can be difficult to hold a conversation with those who are hesitant. Simply knowing which questions to ask to facilitate basic communication can make a big difference.
But when Valencia takes her experience working with members into a meeting about homelessness or racial equity, or simply a gathering with other nonprofits about various approaches to serving those in need, these challenges seem small compared to the potential rewards. Her twin roles of creating relationships with the members and then using those connections to further the administrative work she does daily feel especially rewarding.
Valencia is not alone in reaping the rewards. Members at The Well enjoy interacting with her. As Well member Delores says, “[Valencia] has been real nice … teaching me things and being a good friend. I enjoy having her. She helps me out.” Rita shares, “She has been helpful and cheerful. I love her fellowship.”
Touching reminders like this make the work Valencia does behind her computer screen, working for members like Rita and Delores, seem even more worthwhile. Upon completing her social work internship at The Well, Valencia will finish her master’s degree at USC, and then go on to continue her work serving those most urgently in need.
“Administrative social work interns play a unique and vital role at The Well,” says Director Alice Zaccarello. “Their work behind the scenes helps to keep us organized and allows us to better serve our members.”
Want to donate or serve?
Serving at The Well Community, whether as an intern or as a volunteer, is an excellent way to gain a deeper understanding of mental illness while blessing those who deal with mental health challenges. We are always looking for new volunteers to help serve at Thursday Night Life or our other events. Think you might be interested? Don’t hesitate to call or email! We would love to answer your questions and find the best place for you to use your unique gifts.