Internship gives E-town student a ‘Leg Up’ on equine therapy
Internships can be daunting, but junior social work major Haylee Kirschner’s first steps into the work world reminded her of home.
Leg Up Farm, a non-profit therapy center for special needs children in York County, Pennsylvania, enabled Kirschner to balance her passion for horses with the field work necessary to complete her major. Kirschner worked with licensed clinical social workers at Leg Up, sat in on one-on-one counseling sessions and worked in the barn as an aid to riding instructors.
It’s about learning the different areas of social work, because there are so many things you can do with (the major).”
“I’ve always had a love for horses,” Kirschner said, noting that she grew up around horses and ranches. The environment at Leg Up is similar to what she was used to.
E-town social work professors, including Department Chair and Professor of Social Work Susan Mapp, helped the junior establish the Leg Up internship so it satisfied her junior, fall-semester, 40-hour internship.
“I knew that Haylee was interested in equine-assisted therapy,” said Mapp, who helped negotiate the internship connecting Kirschner with Jen Pelton, an E-town psychology alum currently working at Leg Up. According to Mapp, alums are happy to help current students accomplish fieldwork and internships. “They feel the tie back to E-town,” she said.
According to Mapp, most institutions require 400 hours of internship experience for social work majors. At E-town, however, students can achieve more than 700 hours through introductory classes, service learning and junior- and senior-year internships.
“It’s about learning the different areas of social work, because there are so many things you can do with (the major),” Mapp said.
The internships allow students to apply classroom knowledge to a real-life setting. Kirschner went into Leg Up with a general knowledge of multicultural counseling skills but learned real-world applications during her time there.
“A lot of things, you learn as you go,” the student said.
Kirschner said she knew early on that she wanted to help others. “When I was younger, I saw a lot of kids in need of support,” the junior said. “I found occupational therapy and, from there, I decided that wasn’t for me. I met with Dr. Mapp, who was the chair of our department.”
Kirschner said she fell in love with social work.
“I saw it as a way to help children and people in society who don’t have a voice,” Kirschner said.
Kirschner’s best memory from Leg Up is of hosting a riding lesson with just the aid of a volunteer, no supervisors. It was the perfect way to end her time in the internship, as it allowed her to put all of the skills she learned to one final test.
Kirschner said, in the future, she wants to work in pediatric oncology to communicate with parents of children with cancer. Though this may not involve horses, the Leg Up internship experience allowed Kirschner to trot, canter and gallop toward new opportunities as a social worker.