GiGi’s Playhouse Down Syndrome Achievement Center Indianapolis is embracing the “new normal” for how they work and live as the world comes together to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. GiGi’s shifted to in-person experiences online and working together to find creative solutions to new challenges.
Part of this included finding new ways to incorporate summer interns into the program. This year, six University of Indianapolis students interned with the Center. Many of the interns’ original internship placements were canceled due to the pandemic. GiGi’s Playhouse was able to provide a remote experience that presented a rewarding opportunity as well as meaningful connections.
Throughout their 14-week internship, students worked alongside many volunteers while serving Gigi’s families as best as possible. Many individuals began creating relationships with clients just one week into meeting virtually. Working with GiGi’s-At-Home, interns described becoming much more efficient with their communication styles and using virtual platforms.
The Program Interns were responsible for monitoring their assigned programs, communicating with enrolled families and volunteers while making the programs fun. Students served in roles such as program coordinator and worked on projects such as planning & implementing the “Mighty Masks” program, creating Fall 2020 Registration and presenting Program Reflections. Social media posts and marketing efforts were created and executed by the Marketing & Social Media Coordinator Intern.
Check out what the UIndy student interns had to say about their experience:
“GiGi’s Playhouse has been more than just an internship for me. I had very limited expectations for this internship since I have never been a part of one before. This has been such a wonderful experience and it really gives you a sense of belonging. As soon as I witnessed my first program, I felt so welcomed and loved and these feelings only continue to grow! I now know what they mean when they say there is “GiGi’s Magic” that you can only observe firsthand. This community gives everyone a sense of belonging no matter who they are, and it is so rewarding to witness!”
-Jordyn Banks ‘20
“My experience at GiGi’s Playhouse Indianapolis may have been virtual, but it was still filled with fun and positivity! I feel so connected to the GiGi’s families because of how much time I’ve gotten to spend with them. By putting together the programs, leading activities and discussions, and contributing to different projects, I feel that I’ve really been able to make an impact on the Playhouse. The GiGi’s atmosphere is filled with love and dedication by the staff and community, and I’m lucky to have been a part of it!”
“At the beginning of this internship at GiGi’s Playhouse, I was hesitant because this was not the internship I had planned. I pictured myself in scrubs running around taking food plans. Though, I now feel I was put where I was supposed to go all along. This Playhouse became more than an internship for me. I made friends here through my fellow interns, my supervisors, and my AWESOME GiGi’s Friends. I ran programs and projects, I learned how to work virtually and as a team, and finally, I had FUN. At GiGi’s, there’s no place you can go, virtually or in the Playhouse, where you don’t make a friend, have a little fun, or have a dance party. I found myself on more and more programs every week because I wanted to see the participants. I got to see my participants grow, just in the summertime from a timid drama troupe to memorizing their lines and ready to go each day. I am more than thankful for my time at GiGi’s and cannot say enough good things about my very rewarding experience! I can’t wait to go visit GiGi’s Playhouse when they reopen!!!”
“My time at GiGi’s Playhouse as a Virtual Program Intern was nothing less than life changing. Between my supervisors, my coworkers, and my participants, this experience was one of the best of my life. Personally, I was responsible for the adult programs (EPIC/GiGiFIT). The positivity that radiated, even through a screen, from the participants every week put a smile on my face every time I saw them. The participants did not know me well, but they welcomed me with open arms as though I had been their best friend for years. GiGi’s Playhouse created that atmosphere of love and understanding in the playhouse, and that same atmosphere is felt online. My internship was not brought down in any way just because it was virtual. My supervisors were amazing and they truly treated me as a coworker. They gave me room to be my own person and get creative, but they were always there if I got stuck. GiGi’s Playhouse is a very special place, whether you are walking into their doors or logging into their programs online; I highly recommend getting involved with this organization because you will not be the same person when you leave.”
-Emily Lazarek ‘20
“My intern experience at GiGi’s Playhouse was nothing less than perfect. Prior to COVID-19, I was supposed to intern at Riley’s Children’s Hospital, which I was super bummed out about. After a couple of weeks at GiGi’s, I knew that I was in the right place and God truly has a way with what He does. Every day, I learned so much from so many people, and I have made so many new friends along the way! I had the chance to lead the Kindergarten Prep program and seeing the improvements over 8 weeks made me feel like I actually impacted these family’s lives. As I continue throughout graduate school, I will definitely be back to GiGi’s; whether it is to visit or volunteer! I am SO thankful for this experience.”
“My internship at GiGi’s Playhouse has been nothing short of amazing! Starting my internship in the middle of a pandemic, I had my reservations and I was definitely worried about how it would work out. The staff and participants at GiGi’s have been so welcoming and have taught me so much. Over my internship, I have primarily worked with the PLU Theater and Art Explosion programs. It has been awesome to see the participants grow and gain confidence throughout the PLU Theater program. They have worked on their voice and facial expressions, and I have loved watching everyone come out of their shells. Though my internship was online, I was still able to connect with the participants and help the staff at GiGi’s make their programs the best that they can be. Everyone has adapted so well to the online format and it just shows how important GiGi’s is to their participants, whether online or in person.”