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UPS Interns Help Out at New York City's Henry Street Settlement House

October 1, 1993
Related Topics: Vision, Career Development, Employee Career Development, Featured Article
One of the four locations for interns participating in UPS's Community Internship Program is the Henry Street Settlement House on New York City's Lower East Side of Manhattan.

The Henry Street Settlement is a not-for-profit organization with a 100-year history of outreach to the local community. It originated as a source of neighborhood support for Jewish women, and now works with more than 25 local social-services agencies to provide social programs and networking for the 40,000 people who live within a four-block radius of the area.

"It's one of the most-successful social-service organizations in New York City," says Dan Preble, corporate training manager for UPS in Atlanta. In addition to providing a continual stream of help in the form of interns each year, UPS has given a substantial amount of money from the UPS Foundation to Henry Street over the years.

During their month's stay at the Henry Street Settlement, UPS interns each have a fieldwork assignment. As an intern, Anne Simmons' project was to assist a psychiatric nurse at a federally funded mental-health facility with which Henry Street Settlement is affiliated, and which serves low-income residents in the area.

Simmons is the medical-services manager for UPS's Pacific region, based in Laguna Hills, California. Additionally, she's a licensed RN and also has a background in administration and management. Her background was different from that of the nurse with whom she was assigned to work.

"The nurse's background was occupational," explains Simmons. "She had experience as a nurse in an emergency-room setting. Her problem, at the time, was administrative. She was looking for a way to develop some policies and procedures."

Together, they developed admittance policies and procedures for tuberculosis patients, in addition to drug-abuse policies and needle-contamination procedures. "She knew what kinds of policies she wanted; she just didn't know how to draft them," says Simmons. "We did a lot of brainstorming. We combined our talents, and I think we came up with some good, productive programs."

During the days when interns aren't at their field assignments, they visit other local service organizations. They meet with the area's residents and learn about their needs. Often, the interns also will provide services to local agencies, such as helping in food kitchens or working with children in Head Start programs.

Interns also visit nearby Sing Sing prison, where convicts have started a program similar to Scared Straight. The program encourages at-risk children to remain in school and stay away from drugs and crime. The program is called YAP-Youth Awareness Program.

As part of her daily routine as an in-tern, Simmons kept a diary during her month on-site. Recalling her visit to the prison that day, her journal read: "As I listened to the inmates share their belief in and their role in YAP, I suddenly became aware that these individuals were not prisoners, but very caring and concerned human beings trying to make a difference in the lives of young people. I became totally immersed in their presentation. I could have been in any conference room, in any business, in any city in America."

During their internship at Henry Street, interns also are assigned a "little brother" or "little sister." Simmons' little sister was a 12-year-old girl of Puerto Rican descent. "We took them to Shea Stadium," she says. "My little sister had never been to a ballpark. It was a lot of fun just watching the kids' excitement. It seemed to open them up and get them involved with everybody."

As a manager, Simmons says that her internship was an experience that completely changed her tolerance and understanding for people who are different from herself. "I think that the tendency to label people and to perceive them through these labels leads to tremendous misunderstandings. It devalues their worth, and that ultimately leads to mistreatment," says Simmons. "Not until we're able to get past these labels will we begin to resolve the problems. We need to work together and pool our talents so that we can make a difference."

Simmons' last journal entry read: "It was good. It was bad. It was hard. It was easy. It was good in the fact that it broadened my perspective in understanding the challenges that the poor and homeless face on a daily basis. It was bad in that I felt so helpless. The problems are overwhelming and frustrating. It was hard to see the lives wasting away due to ignorance, poverty and disease. It was easy in that the environment was very casual and relaxed and that there was no real pressure or sense of urgency in our day-to-day activities."

She adds: "I used to have all these rigid perceptions. I believed that people didn't have to exist in these undesirable situations, and if they did, I believed they had no pride in themselves. They didn't want to change. They just didn't care, or they were satisfied to milk the system. I've come to learn that there's a lot more to the story. We have to get involved, and we have to make change happen.

Personnel Journal,October 1993, Vol. 72, No. 10, p. 96.

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