Secondary English Education / Special Education Endorsement
Pi Beta Phi Sorority
Internship opportunity gives future teacher unique insight into classroom management
Internships are a proven way to gain experience, develop skills, build connections, and to know if a specific field is the right career path. Millikin University student Madeline Wilson is on the right track for her career path thanks to a summer internship opportunity that's providing her with unique hands-on experiences.
Wilson is a junior secondary English education major with a special education endorsement. The future teacher is spending her summer serving as the assistant director for Camp PALS in Scranton, Pa., a summer camp for individuals with Down syndrome. The program's mission is to create immersive experiences where young adults with Down syndrome and their peers have fun, grow as individuals and build transformative friendships.
"PALS fosters close connections and a sense of belonging, built around quality, accepting and caring people," Wilson said. "Together, we create the best place on earth and a family away from home. We are welcoming, genuine, passionate, supportive and fun."
As the assistant director, Wilson works alongside the directors to coordinate volunteers and campers, fundraise for the camp and the organization, plan and coordinate events, and spread the message of PALS.
"This experience provides me with opportunities to employ problem-solving skills, apply creative thinking and practice organizational tools," the Mokena, Ill., native said. "Most importantly, I get to be a part of the team that creates the joy of the true happiest place on Earth."
As a teacher, Wilson plans to work with individuals with differing abilities, and her experience with Camp PALS will allow her to work directly with a community that may one day be present in her future classroom.
"Every moment spent with PALS definitely reaffirms my choice to pursue Special Education," said Wilson. "I feel like this hands-on experience will give me valuable, unique insights into how my students work, along with practicing classroom management skills and lesson planning, even in the summer."
Wilson is gaining important skill sets from her internship, but she is also learning different life lessons.
"Working productively with a team will make even the impossible goal attainable," she says. "Nothing amazing or worthwhile can be accomplished by one single person, and the only disability in life is a bad attitude."
Wilson says Millikin University has helped her learn two major tools that have led to her success at Camp PALS: confidence and networking skills.
"Without the confidence I have built at Millikin, I would never be able to succeed in a leadership position at camp," she said. "Millikin also focuses heavily on the power of networking. PALS is a perfect place for networking to occur for my profession. Many volunteers are studying to become special educators or are already special educators."
Wilson added, "Because of this experience, I have been able to make lifelong connections with people that will be doing some of the same work I will be doing. This can and will help when I don't know what else to do in my classroom or if I need help finding a teaching position."