Guest post written by Kaitlyn Smith, Special Olympics Project UNIFY Executive Management Intern during Summer 2012.
July 28th. The day six youth had been dreading for over two months was here. This was the day their lives would go back to “normal,” the day they would say goodbye to friends they had become so close with, and the day they would say goodbye to a city they had learned to love. This day was the day that the Special Olympics Project UNIFY interns would say goodbye to the most amazing summer and part their separate ways back to their own states, and back into the lives they had left behind two months ago.
Sitting in the airport on the morning of July 28th seemed so unreal to me. It felt like just yesterday I was arriving in DC with high hopes for what the summer would bring, and now I was already leaving. Sitting at my gate waiting to board, I was on my computer reminiscing over the pictures of us interns in our dorms, at the monuments, kayaking in the Potomac River, traveling to different states, working in the office, and dressing like our mentors. These amazing memories are the ones that will stick with me the rest of my life. The more pictures I flipped through, the more I realized that this internship was not just a “job” for the summer, or an internship to learn about an organization; it presented us with opportunities to learn about ourselves, grow professionally, and learn about life. This internship was life changing.
“We are now beginning to board sections 1 and 2.” When I came to Washington DC, I already had a sincere passion and enthusiasm for Special Olympics, but never did I imagine that my passion for the organization could grow! Being able to work in an office with staff members who not only love their jobs, but have the desire to share their skills and knowledge with others was remarkable! The life-lessons and skills we learned from each and every one of the staff members we worked with are lessons that can be put to use as we begin our individual journeys into the “real-world.”
“Sections 3 and 4 you may now board.” The moment I walked into the Special Olympics office at the beginning of the summer, I instantly felt like I was a valued member of the team. The staff did not try and give us pointless jobs to keep us busy, but rather valued our input and voice as youth! All summer we worked on projects that were meaningful, and projects that we knew would be put to use in the future. While talking with other interns in the DC area they described their internships as “getting coffee” or “filing papers,” but Special Olympics valued our time, talent and skills making our internship an amazing experience.
“Sections 5 and 6.” The first day that I arrived in DC and met all the other interns, it was clear that this group of individuals could not be more different. We had different personalities, different approaches to situations, different ideas of what was “fun,” we came from different parts of the country, and from different backgrounds. But in the end, the differences are what made the experiences so much better. Special Olympics is all about celebrating differences, and once we were able to do so, we became so much more than friends; we became an intern family.
“Section 7 and all remaining passengers please board now.” This is it. As I packed up my belongings and made my way to the door, I couldn’t help but smile through the tears. In no way was this good-bye, or an end. Interning for Special Olympics Project UNIFY was just one more chapter completed in my Special Olympics journey, and I can’t wait to see where the next chapter takes me.