Interning with AS- Community Engagement and Involvement
By Andrea Villegas
Hello! My name is Andrea Villegas and I am a senior at the University of Texas at Austin. I am a double major in both Government and Health & Society. When looking for places to get an internship the mission of Austin Smiles really stood out to me. Not only are they working to make an impact locally, but internationally as well. Ever since I was in high school, I knew that I wanted to know more about non-profit organizations and how they operate. Even though my future goals kept changing, my interest in this never did. When I came across the Austin Smiles website I was immediately drawn in. And after doing my research about this organization and getting to talk with both Renee and Ellise during the interview process, I had my heart set on interning with Austin Smiles.
Even in my short time interning at Austin Smiles I have learned a lot. We have been given a wide array of exposure including organizing medical inventory and writing and researching grants. One of my favorite tasks was reaching out to companies for donation requests. Donations are an integral part for this organization. The support we receive from the businesses in our community help us fundraise for the medical missions. Another one of my favorite tasks was delivering care kits to the Pediatric Center. The care kits that I delivered consisted of items that would help make the recovery a bit more enjoyable.
At the beginning of this internship, my fellow interns and I got a chance to attend some meetings regarding the upcoming medical mission trips in Latin America. We were able to hear all of the preparation that goes into planning these missions in order to make them happen. I had never realized how much planning went into the missions which was quite surprising to me. The planning included choosing the location, choosing the hospital partnership, recruiting volunteers, and accounting for what medical supplies are needed.
Another thing that caught my attention was the level of involvement of everyone in Austin Smiles. The first event that we attended was the Inner Space Caverns. There were so many aspects about this event that I loved and was glad that I got to witness. It was wonderful getting to interact with both the children and their families and get to know them throughout the day. Seeing the community that was built from the existence of these events is amazing. This ever growing community creates a different level of support for these families and kids. The children get to meet other kids who are going through the same thing as themselves. The smiles on all of their faces were contagious, especially as we all got to go on the zipline at the end of the event.
Currently, we are preparing for the Back-to-School event that is coming up soon. To prepare, I have gathered books from donations and helped create questions for the trivia game that will take place at the event. At the beginning of my internship, I never really knew how involved the Austin Smiles staff was, but I was pleasantly surprised. Seeing Renee and Ellise interact with the children and their families to create support and a joyous environment will always stick with me. Everyone just looks so joyful and at ease being together.
There are so many things that I have taken away from this experience. I have met a lot of new people. I have gotten a diverse exposure working here. And I have had the chance to be involved, not only in my community, but in the work abroad as well. I know that everything that I have learned here will help me on my journey to practicing health law. I am sad that my time interning with Austin Smiles is coming to an end, but I know that the next group of interns will have the best experience getting to be a part of this amazing organization just as I did.
Andrea Villegas, Global Public Health Intern Summer 2022
The University of Texas at Austin