Learning through multi-tasking
Devon Kariker said the De Soto Multi-Service Center helps people in unexpected ways.
"We do so much more than utility assistance," the 24-year-old Kansas University graduate student said. "Sometimes people get lonely, and they come in to talk. We are a pillar in the community and help people reach their goals."
Kariker is one of three student interns from the Kansas University School of Social Welfare graduate program helping out at Johnson County multi-service centers this semester.
De Soto Multi-Service Center coordinator Jodi Hitchcock said the centers provide emergency assistance, food, advice and help paying bills for people in need and who qualify.
The Johnson County multi-service centers boast assistance centers in Blue Valley, De Soto, Gardner, Lenexa, Roeland Park and Spring Hill, with the interns shuffling among each location.
Hitchcock said the KU graduate program required its students to have field experience.
"The KU master's in social work program is a two-year program, and each year they do a practicum," Hitchcock said. "Each year, they work 20 hours a week at qualified places."
Hitchcock said having interns work at the centers was not a new thing.
"We routinely have interns," Hitchcock said. "We have worked with KU, Washburn (University) and (University of Missouri -- Kansas City) with the master's level students."
Hitchcock said the non-paid interns worked side by side with the coordinators, getting valuable hands-on experience.
"They work ... directly with the clientele," Hitchcock said. "They have helped with programs. Starting in January, my student will help clients with low income heating paperwork."
Hitchcock said the interns also helped clients sign up for the new Medicare Part D, which offers affordable prescription drugs.
Kariker said her average day at the De Soto Multi-Service Center was fairly regimented, but always exciting.
"Jodi and I usually talk about things that are going on and go over things step by step (every day)," Kariker said. "It sometimes takes three hours to do just one task. It seems like a small task, but there are lots of tidbits here and there to do."
Intern Tincy Mathew, 22, said she enjoyed her work, despite the organization's limited resources.
"I enjoy it, but it gets frustrating," Mathew said. "Today I had a client with overdue bills. When you have limited resources you try to do what you can, but it's really rewarding."
Intern Jenna Stainbrook, 22, said she enjoyed helping people meet their needs.
"I like helping people on a day-to-day basis and making sure people aren't living in poverty as much as you can," Stainbrook said.
Kariker said the most rewarding aspect of the job is helping clients live up to their true potential.
"The thing I love most is I like the people coming in," Kariker said. "They all have like a special quality about them. They are resilient and some have overcome tremendous adversity to come here; so they are amazing."
Kariker said she didn't plan on doing this type of social work when she graduated, but it still was quite helpful.
"I think I'm going to go into health care," Kariker said. "Right now I'm dealing with the Medicare Part D stuff, which is really good preparation. And being exposed to old people in the community is really beneficial."
Mathew said she planned on doing hospital social work when she graduated.
Stainbrook said her future would involved child welfare.