After pouring all her passion for social work into her internship with the Division for Children, Youth and Families (DCYF) in Claremont, N.H., child development major Caroline Wall ’19 learned to have confidence in herself and her goal to be an assessment worker for the agency that manages protective programs on behalf of some of the state’s most vulnerable citizens.
Wall’s interest in helping children in situations of abuse and neglect led her to DCYF, but it was her traits of being responsible, timely and organized that helped her jump into the work of documentation and calling schools and physicians on children’s behalf. She also accompanied her mentor on home visits to interview children and parents/guardians, attended forensic interviews with children, communicated with police when necessary, and attended court hearings for family matters.
Though most of Wall’s peers in the child development intend to go into teaching, the senior from Attleboro, Mass., found that courses in the major, along with sociology classes about intimate partner violence, provided a valuable knowledge base for working with young children and families that will serve her well in social work.
“The children I saw had likely been through some serious trauma,” Wall said. “One of the most challenging aspects of the internship was seeing parents involved with illicit drugs, because they weren’t able to properly care for their children. I learned how to work with families in difficult situations.”
Wall found success stories along the way, though, like the teenager who survived a childhood shaped by drug-addicted parents and was rebuilding her life thanks to a constellation of resources provided by her school and DCYF.
“I learned so much at this internship, and it for sure directed my career plans,” Wall said. “I was surprised how much I immediately loved being at the job and doing the work. Colby-Sawyer’s requirement of completing an internship is highly beneficial – it allows students to gain hands-on experiences in their fields of study and find out if the job they think they want to do is actually right for them.”
Finding Her Place
That freedom to explore academic and career options has been vital to Wall’s college experience.
When she looks back on her time at Colby-Sawyer, she’s amazed at how much she’s grown.
Originally a nursing major, she discovered after a shaky first year that that was not the best future for her. She was dead set on transferring.
“I just was not in a healthy mindset to be in college. I didn’t want to attend classes or study, I wasn’t eating much or seeing friends. Erica Webb, the director of Student Success and Retention, contacted me, and I reluctantly met with her,” Wall said. “I was so against the idea of talking to her at first, but she connected me with a mentor and convinced me I had a place at Colby-Sawyer, I just needed to find it. I will be forever grateful for Erica and her relentless, cheerful self who told me I needed to stay at Colby-Sawyer and that everything would work out.”
With a growing network of support on campus, Wall refocused on her college experience. She buckled down in her classes; got a job at the on-campus lab school, Windy Hill; took herself to the Hogan Sports Center; and got involved with the Dance Club, Outing Club and the Adopt-a-Grandparent Club, among others.
“Getting involved made such a positive impact on my social life and academics by keeping me focused and connecting with so many amazing people who share my interests,” Wall said.
As a sophomore, Wall wanted out. As a senior, she loves Colby-Sawyer and wishes she could tell her younger self what she knows now.
“I love Colby-Sawyer because it is a small college with an amazing community full of friendly, unique and caring individuals,” she said. “One of the most important tips for success I would share with incoming college students is to ask for help if you need it. People here are always willing to help students, so don’t be afraid to ask, and don’t wait until the last minute, either!”
On solid ground now and prepared to dedicate her professional life to helping others when she graduates, it seems like everything’s working out for Wall, after all.