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Meaningful and Mission-Driven: A Look at CIS’ Intensive Internship Program

Senior Student Supports Manager, Mimi Macbeth, and retired Doolittle Elementary principal, Dr. Bibbie, pose for a photo with CIS intern Izzy during the 2018–19 school year.

“My intern, Emily, ran a group called Mind Over Mather for female-identifying students,” said Stephanie Estrada, a CIS Senior Student Supports Manager at Mather High School. This group was open to all grade levels and focused on building students’ self-esteem and their ability to be comfortable in their own skin. “The students enjoyed the group,” Stephanie said, “and learned a lot about themselves and each other. They even asked for the group to continue during the summer months.”

Emily also took part in Mather’s Behavioral Health Team (BHT) and discussed ways to support Mather students during remote learning. “Some of the moments that make my work as an intern so special are my interactions with students and the BHT,” Emily said.

Roniquee, a CIS intern who was based at Doolittle Elementary, said there were many moments that brought her joy during the experience. She led breakout groups for the kindergarten class, created social-emotional learning lessons for Pre-K, and guided students through exercises and movement breaks. She also collaborated with Senior Student Supports Manager Mimi Macbeth, watched how she interacted with students, and gained insight into practices she could integrate in her work.

“My intern, Alex, built meaningful relationships with his caseload of students,” said Student Supports Manager Razz Fullard. “He taught his students everything from stress management to coping skills they could incorporate, not only at school but also in their daily lives.” Razz said Alex also grew in his ability to organize and multitask. One first grader said, “My favorite thing about working with Mr. Clark is he’s nice, and he sometimes read’s a book to us, and he asks us what our favorite color is, and he helps people calm down.” An eighth grader that Alex worked with said, “The thing I like about working with him is that during lunchtime, he keeps my mind off the boredom.”

According to Field Supervisor Paul Fagen, CIS of Chicago uses a “teach one, show one, do one” approach with interns. Interns undergo intensive training in August and September on CIS’s model and programs. Then, they sit in with their school-based supervisors to observe groupwork and individual meetings. Next, they spend time co-leading sessions, and finally, interns have the opportunity to lead. Student Supports Managers hold weekly supervision with interns, and Paul provides monthly supervision to ensure that interns have the supports they need to succeed in their roles and are gaining a wide range of experiences.

This approach has been beneficial for both the interns and CIS of Chicago as an organization. “We know that interns train with us to gain meaningful experiences providing supportive services,” Paul said. “They want to learn how schools can be the setting to provide SEL skills training, grief and loss supports, and other clinical services that students need. And their work not only provides them with a solid experiential foundation as graduate students, but it also furthers the CIS of Chicago vision to make sure every Chicago Public Schools student graduates.”

In 2019, Liz Keo was a master’s student at the Erikson Institute, pursuing a degree in Social Work. She was interested in supporting youth and families but also serving her community in an impactful way. Seeking an internship experience for her capstone year, Liz connected with CIS of Chicago. The internship gave Liz the opportunity to support students at Doolittle Elementary, and with the guidance of Senior Student Supports Manager Mimi Macbeth, Liz gained direct experience in her field.

She learned how to build and sustain student groups, build relationships with school staff as part of the Behavioral Health Team, and work to gain buy-in from parents. Most importantly, Liz contributed to the impact that CIS had in the lives of students. When a full-time position opened up after Liz graduated, she applied and got the job. Liz gained experience in both the elementary and high school setting during remote learning. This fall, she’s looking forward to serving Cardenas Elementary as their CIS Student Supports Manager.

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