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For Psychology major Georgia Huston ’16, bringing her passion for art into her internship work with troubled adolescents was doubly rewarding. Below, Huston shares what she learned as an intern and how the experiences confirmed her career path.

Since the beginning of my junior year, I’ve worked at Blue Sky Abilities, which provides therapeutic services for children and teenagers who have behavioral or cognitive challenges. Many of them have experienced abuse or neglect and are receiving supervision by a social services agency. I do group counseling and one-on-one mentoring with both young children and teenage girls. I pick the kids up, bring them to the day’s program — like a free event at the children’s museum for the younger kids, or a talk-based session for the teenage girls — and then take them home and tell their parents what we’ve done that day.

I want to be an art therapist, so I started a monthly artist workshop for the older kids. Recently, I had my teenage girls draw trees, and on the trunk and roots they wrote things they like about themselves — I’m good with family, or caring, kind, funny. And on the leaves they wrote things they wanted to change, like do better in math class and be nicer to my sister. The idea is that the leaves can fall and change, but their structure is sound.

When I started the internship, I wanted to work with the younger kids because I thought I could relate better to them than the teenage girls. But after doing this work, I think the teen group has become my favorite. In addition, I’ve been an intern for Associate Professor Sara Villanueva’s Adolescent Psychology class for three semesters now, and I’ve discovered that I want to work with adolescents.

The stories that these kids tell are really heartbreaking sometimes. I’ve had to call social services three times for really intense situations. That was a big wake-up call for me — the idea that a child is telling me something that I need to tell someone else, and it’s my responsibility to make the phone call and say that he or she is in danger.

A lot of the kids are hungry. A lot of them have hygiene problems, and they wear the same outfit a lot. I see how negatively some of the parents talk to the kids. At the same time, the internship has encouraged me not to judge the parents, to remember that the parents are doing their best in their circumstances. I often cry after the sessions, either good tears because I feel like I made a breakthrough, or because I don’t know how to help the child cope. But the tears always show me that I should be here, and this job has absolutely confirmed my career choice.

As told to Robyn Ross