As I am looking into occupational therapy as a career and must have at least 30 observation hours before I apply to any graduate program, I did what any sensible person would do: I googled "occupational therapy non-profit atlanta" and hoped for the best.
The first place that came up was the Atlanta Speech School. I don't need to go into all the details, the name is pretty much self-explanatory. I saved the link as a tab on my bookmarks bar and began to get hyped up over the idea of working there. Naively assuming that since I was free labor, I could probably just work anywhere, I stopped looking after that.
A few months, rough drafts, and kind-hearted peer editing sessions later, I submitted my application for SAS.
I found out about a month later I had been selected.
I was ecstatic. I manipulated the details of the program and the internship into a formal proposal, got in contact with a couple of different people at the Atlanta Speech School, and sent it in.
Two weeks later...
Strike one. I was devastated when the coordinator called to let me know they would not be able to provide me with enough work to fulfill my hours.
Slightly daunted but motivated by a pending deadline of informing my program director where I would be placed, I tweaked my proposal into a more heart-wrenching plea and submitted it to the Shepherd Center, where my brother was treated after a severe brain injury.
One week later...
Strike Two. I tried bargaining as the HR representative informed me that internships like this required a year's notice in advance. A year in advance, I had not even known where I was going to college, let alone what I would be doing that summer. I asked if I could just be considered a volunteer. I could, she told me, if I was willing to only work 3 hours every other week. That, unfortunately, was not in green zone for SAS. I thanked her for her time.
I called Children's Healthcare of Atlanta.
Strike three. Still have not received a call back, even three months later. I'm not holding my breath on that one.
By that point, I was getting nervous. By the rules of baseball, I would have been out by now. Both fortunately and unfortunately, this was the real world, and I had to find an internship, no matter how many tries it took. I had a week to inform my supervisor.
I asked a friend whose father works in non profits, and she gave me the contact information for a Curt Amstrong, director of the first, soon-to-be-opened L'Arche house of Atlanta, an inclusive learning community for adults with developmental abilities and typically developing adults to live together. It wasn't quite occupational therapy, but at this point I would have been happy with a waste management job if it meant something secure. Of course, this was not even near there and I was excited at the prospect of working there. Curt was very receptive to the idea, but said he'd have to get back with me because he was going to be out of town a lot this summer.
I passed the deadline with my supervisor. I was given an extension, probably for good effort. Nice to know that still counts for something sometimes in the "real world".
When I returned from a week long camp at the end of the semester, I had strike four waiting for me in my gmail inbox. Curt would not be in town enough of the time to supervise me. I forwarded the email to my supervisor with the subject title:
"WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME?"
Fortunately, however, Curt had provided me with a couple of contacts for directors of similar nonprofits to his work.
One of these contacts was Trace Haythorn, newly appointed director of the Frazer Center. Spoiler Alert: This is where I ended up working.
The Frazer Center is an inclusive learning community where people at all levels of ability and disability gather, learn, and flourish together.
They have two main branches:
First, the children's wing, which is the inclusive part. Children from ages 6 months to 5 years old and who function at every range of the spectrum of ability learn together in classrooms with people their own age. During the summer, there is a summer camp that functions similarly.
Second, the adult's wing. The adults all have some form of developmental or physical disability, such as cerebral palsy, spina bifida, Down syndrome, sickle cell anemia, autism spectrum disorders, and other genetic anomalies.
They regularly work with physical, speech, and occupational therapists and have many connections to community members and organizations involved in such work. I REPEAT: THEY NEARLY SPECIALIZE IN WHAT I AM LOOKING TO DO IN LIFE.
I'm sorry. I know this is long, but I just had to show how God loves to laugh at me as I tap my watch and pace the room over things he's had in store for, well, who knows how long. What's that verse about God working in the 11th hour? ;)
Anyways, that is the background of how I came to be involved in what I consider one of the most perfect fits of my life. And I pretty much had absolutely nothing to do with it. Funny how this stuff works out.