While many students took a break from their books this summer, Psychology student Olivia Uecker ’24 was able to earn academic credit while making a difference in the lives of others.
Olivia completed a 3-credit internship with Balance Autism, a non-profit organization that encourages individuals living with autism to develop life skills, gain confidence, and seek independence. With locations throughout Iowa, there are services available for both children and adults on the spectrum. Olivia worked at the Altoona/Greater Des Moines location as an employment coach.
“I would accompany a person to their job to ensure they were safe and understood their task. Then I assisted in communicating with coworkers and supervisors, and documented the experience,” Olivia said. “Each person with Balance Autism has a unique program, so my duties and focus changed with each individual so I could help them move toward their goals.”
“There were some days when the person I would be working with would be in an extremely good mood. For most of them, when they were in a good mood like that, they would love to tease me and their coworkers. I believe that it is memorable because it also brightened my mood, along with everyone else in the area,” Oliva added. “Of course, we would still be working and focusing on the tasks at hand, but those days were always my favorites. Some of them absolutely loved their jobs and would always want to do more.”
While she was supporting those in the program, Olivia also had the support of Clarke faculty and staff throughout her internship.
“I worked very closely with [Professor of Psychology] Tim Boffeli and [Interim Director of Career Services] Marianne Kurtz Weber while finding this internship. They communicated well and checked in often during the experience,” Olivia said. “I would recommend a summer internship to other students because you do not have to multitask between other classes along with your internship. It allows you to focus on the topics that you are learning and can assist in understanding how this career would look without classes.”
As she begins her junior year, Olivia is still determining what her ultimate career path may be. For now, she hopes to continue growing her knowledge with classes, the Psychology Club, and even her experience with the Clarke Softball team. Whatever comes next, she knows this experience will stay with her for a lifetime.
“My experience has taught me an abundance about myself and the field of psychology. I would like to continue with a career similar to this internship, while also having something that challenges me and shows me other aspects of this field,” Olivia said. “I sincerely enjoyed my time at Balance Autism. I am so appreciative of the opportunity I had to learn there. I will miss all of the people I served, and hopefully I can return in the future.”