Alondra Renteria is not new to the Well Community, but she is the newest member of the staff. After two semesters of internship with the Well, Alondra graduated from the University of Texas, Arlington in August with a Master of Social Work and joined the team shortly after as Manager of Programs.
During her time as an intern, Alondra was able to easily weave herself into the daily rhythms of the Community Life Center, recognizing that situations change quickly and the pace can be fast at times then slow on other occasions. Such is the environment surrounding those who live with the uncertainties of severe mental illnesses.
As an intern Alondra helped with programs, taking a deep dive into Well life at the spring retreat, where she planned and led most of the activities. “I was able to stay overnight at the retreat center with our members,” she says. This gave her a fuller understanding of their personalities and interests.
The internship also gave her a chance to “learn the ropes” and to find out how her training and talents benefit the Well. “I have always been geared toward helping others, and now I feel like I have a calling to help individuals living with mental health issues.” Over the months at the Well, Alondra was able to participate with members on a day-to-day basis. “There was always something to do. I jumped in wherever I thought I would be helpful. I always took initiative with the members and found my interactions with the members to be different every day,” she explains.
Now on staff, Alondra has a vision for empowering members and helping them to be more independent. She is doing this through her various responsibilities. “I do case management, and that is interesting because I am always learning something new when I research something for a member. I also create activities for our members. That involves research and working with other staff to see if we can come up with activities that are fun but also teach new life skills,” Alondra explains.
Just as her earlier intern experiences taught her, she continues to notice the challenges members face. “You never know what to expect. Someone might be fine one day and have a rough day the next. We just meet them where they are at, accepting how they are on any given day. We watch to see when they need their space and when they are wanting to be more involved,” Alondra says. “I’ve had to learn to do this so that I don’t push too hard. I am naturally a patient person and respect their pace; but at the same time, we want them to keep growing toward their goals. This requires a lot of attention to details and giving time to build rapport.”
Taking time to build trust has already begun to make a difference. “We do bingo on Tuesdays,” Alondra explains. “I always ask if any member would like to volunteer to call out the numbers. Usually they don’t, so I do the calling. But one time recently, one of the members (who typically just sits observing) agreed to do it. I sat with him, and he called out the numbers. He did a wonderful job. To me, that was a turning point for him, that he felt empowered and supported to try something new.” Following his example of courage and trust, several other members have since stepped up and volunteered to call out the bingo numbers.
Expressing her vision for managing programs at the Well Community, Alondra concluded, “I want to do more things that invite more member involvement so we can work on team-building as a part of their community experience. I am initiating new activities that help us do that.”
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