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Internship dramatically changes student’s career plans

27 August, 2019

University of WA student Sarah Durrant cannot name the highlight of her McCusker Centre for Citizenship internship at Directions Disability Support Services.

Why? Because the whole experience was “one big highlight”.

“It’s a bit of a cheesy thing to say, I know,” the 21-year-old said with a laugh, “but it’s honestly true.” 

During her internship, the Psychology and Anthropology Double Major worked in disability support groups that aim to help develop lifestyle skills and complete daily tasks, specifically the Claremont Tigers Life Skills Program.

“It was all about building up people’s confidence and sense of community in the group,” she said.

“It was awesome to see their faces light up as they achieved their goals for the day.

“Those goals ranged from simple things, like cooking a meal or catching a train to work, all the way to long-term goals like connecting with a local community. It is person-centred support, which means everything is focussed on and tailored to each individual’s needs.”

Claremont Tigers Life Skills Program Team Leader and intern supervisor Eamonn Costello said Ms Durrant had a significantly positive impact on the group.

“Sarah established some strong relationships with the individuals in the group, as well as the support workers and carers working alongside her,” Mr Costello said.

“She was well respected and liked by both the individuals she was assisted and the employees in the group.”

When her 100-hour internship was coming to a close, Ms Durrant said her colleagues encouraged her to apply to stay on as a support worker.

“I heard back within a few days that I got the job, and I was so excited,” she said.

“I started in early June on a casual basis while I finish my degree.

“It’s so nice to be starting my working life in an organisation that is really supportive and helpful.”

The Woodlands resident said her McCusker Centre for Citizenship internship changed her perspective and plans for the future.

“I have always been focused on those larger, big-picture issues, but this internship has made me realise that you can make just as much difference – if not more – with one individual at a time,” she said.

“Originally, I had plans to go into human rights or something like that to tackle the larger-scale issues, but now I’ve turned a corner and decided to study psychology as my postgraduate.

“I’ve realised you don’t have to tackle the biggest and baddest problems to make an impact. There is so much more you can do at home.”

Ms Durrant said she was busy recommending the McCusker Centre for Citizenship internship program to all her classmates.

“To have that practical experience does so much – not just for your degree but for you as a person,” she said.

“The McCusker Centre is all about helping people and the community.

“If a student has the time and dedication, I couldn’t recommend it more.”