How Intern Eliza Marines Discovered Her Dream Career Path

By Sara Porcaro | Aug 19, 2020
Skills for Rhode Island's Future, SkillsRI, DLT, Government, Internship, IDD, Disabilities, First Generation

Oftentimes, what we learn in the classroom can be radically different than the real life application of the skills needed for the workforce--and one can discover that the career path they decided on isn't actually the one they were meant to follow. That's why, for high school and college students, internships are so incredibly helpful: they not only help students develop their skills, but also help them make the critical decisions about where to take their professional life. Skills for Rhode Island's Future (SkillsRI) works to help students find those footholds in their career, and to match them with experiences that guide their future--and this summer, one college student from SkillsRI's internship program, Eliza Marines, is making sure to learn all she can at Perspectives!
As a student double majoring in English and Criminal Justice, Eliza is looking forward to the day she walks into a courtroom to represent her clients as a lawyer--but that wasn't always her intended career path. Eliza originally thought about a career in Human Resources, but before she committed to such a path, she had the opportunity through SkillsRI to explore the industry. While she had good experiences, she realized that the work simply wasn't for her. During high school, Eliza was tasked with completing a project to graduate from the program. Of the panel of professionals there to grade her presentation, one of them was not only a judge for the SkillsRI intern projects, but also a judge in the state court, and she was impressed with Eliza's work--so impressed that she asked if Eliza would like to have a mentor for her academic journey.
"Working alongside my mentor got me excited to study criminal justice," Eliza says. "I plan to one day go to law school and work in a firm, so the experience I get with my mentor is really interesting and helpful for my future in the field."

Discovering the Unexpected on the Job

For Eliza, a position as a Direct Support Professional within Perspectives' Youth and Family Services this summer at first seemed a little distanced from the work she's studying to do. But part of the excitement of internships is that across disciplines and industries, the same work skills unite professionals through crucial soft skills--punctuality and time management, emotional intelligence, diversity and inclusivity, and problem solving being only a few. With the many different people Eliza comes in contact with regularly, she's also found that the skills she's developing at Perspectives are critical to her future role as a lawyer; she's learning to anticipate the many ways people think, as well as how to read their reactions and moods, both of which are important skills to have in the courtroom. Beyond that, working alongside her are friendly and encouraging coworkers, who provide the answers and guidance she needs along the way.
"It was a challenging transition at first, but I have really friendly coworkers who are always willing to help me, and my supervisor, Dave, is so supportive," Eliza says. "They've all been really welcoming, and they have my back."
Eliza's supervisor, Program Manager Dave Lizotte, is always there to guide interns and professionals alike with challenging situations, as well as give them positive feedback on the great work they do every day for the individuals we support. In working with this year's interns, Dave has been happy to see them adjust to the job. Eliza works with fellow intern Hadassah Duplan in their program, and Dave notices the hard work they put into every shift.
"Eliza and Hadassah are both doing well; they're dependable, punctual, and consistent, and they've jumped right into the work," Dave says. "They've been able to experience how to de-escalate as well as help provide significant support with distance learning."
Naturally, with the pandemic, the typical duties of the program have changed, and a large focus remains on keeping professionals and individuals we support safe. This internship is on-site, and therefore, Eliza has been working hard to make sure that she follows all Perspectives safety protocol when in individuals' homes: she always wears personal protective equipment (PPE), follows the guides for social distancing where possible, and keeps home surfaces clean--all while finding creative and fun ways to keep everyone enjoying the beautiful weather and safely learning about all the sights available in their local community. While the pandemic has certainly put limits on the types of activities everyone can enjoy, there's still plenty of great adventures to be had, and Eliza enjoys spending time with the individuals she supports.
On working with her team, Eliza says, "Now that I've gotten used to it, I think the best part of the internship is getting to know about an agency like Perspectives and get to know the individuals I support personally. It doesn't feel like a job, but like I'm being a mentor and friend to the youth I support."

Lighting the Way Through Ambition and Hard Work

Beyond the great work she does now, in and outside of Perspectives, Eliza also remains resourceful; she learned about the SkillsRI internship in high school after asking her guidance counselor about opportunities for programs and scholarships. As a first-generation college student, she's made sure to do her homework on the resources available to her, including the scholarships she applied for to cover all of her education expenses. In all her ventures, she's kept an eye open for potential resources--be they mentors like teachers and guidance counselors or student services and flyers to point her in the right direction--so that she can stay organized in her pursuit of higher education and the funds to pay for it.
"I didn't want my parents to worry about money," Eliza notes, "so I made sure to keep in contact with teachers, college advisors, and others who had advice and knew where to look for aid." To fellow first-generation students, she insists, "Keep in contact with the people you meet! It's a lot harder to succeed if you don't make use of your network and connections while in school."
Now, Eliza has a great time in college, as she's gone from knowing only her cousin at URI to meeting new people in her courses and building her college community. She's avoided going to the same school as her friends to encourage her to keep focused on her studies, and she's determined to reach her goals--both through her studies and her hard work at her internships. We're grateful to have a motivated, dedicated member of our team like Eliza join us for the summer as an intern, and we wish her the best in the rest of her college career!


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