Misericordia Internship – Caitlynn Bryant

Caitlynn Bryant



I completed an Internship at Misericordia, a residential developmental disability center with over 600 residents, in the West Rogers Park neighborhood of Chicago. I was a part of the recreational programing staff, which plans and executes dozens of weekly activities as well as special events throughout the week. Although I began in the recreation office for the majority of residents, I was also able to crossover into the McAuley center which focuses on the non-ambulatory and medical needs residents.

I first became acquainted with Misericordia on spring break of my freshman year on a Buck-I-Serv trip, and since then had wanted to go back because of the experience. That trip reconfirmed for me that I wanted to be a Special Education teacher more than anything else. Throughout being there I was able to grow in the real-life application of topics I had learned in classes. I learned about how to plan for ratios of staff to residents, as well as to have back-up plans because you never know how engaged everyone will be. I also was able to see how different therapies were integrated into activities, and was able to learn from these recreational therapists which is a field I was not entirely familiar with. All the real-life application skills have led to my growth as a professional, and already has me thinking of ways to improve on the traditional special education classroom.

Beyond growing in my knowledge, I myself changed. Since my first visit, I viewed Misericordia as this perfect system, and to be honest I realized it wasn’t. No system is flawless, and instead you just have to do the very best you can with what you have. Learning this was extremely important, because that mentality will apply to schools too. One would be hard-pressed to find a special education classroom with every resource they could possibly need, and knowing this will enable me to teach in any district and do my best instead of looking for the best school. More than anything else though, the residents changed me. I am used to working with younger children instead of adults, and I was able to have discussions about what they do and don’t like. I also was able to see some of the functional skills that they should have learned before leaving school, and those are the types of things I should have my future high schoolers work on too.

The practical knowledge growth was solely through being thrown in to activities. My very first day in Chicago I came into Misericordia and helped run a movie night for the residents. They asked for my background, and right away had me rolling residents in wheelchairs and engaging. I learned about planning for ratios with Special Olympics, which in Chicago takes places over the course of a whole week. We had to plan buses, who was going what days, and how to get every resident to their events at different times. In regards to back-up plans, we had a bowling outing planned at the bowling alley on campus and then there was a thunderstorm and we were unable to go. Our back-up plan was to bowl with the residents in their living room, and there was pins already stored in the basement. I learned about what goes into building a sensory room and how to apply lift slings so that residents could be moved from their chair to a sensory swing without hurting us or them. I learned about music therapy as well from visiting houses on campus with different instruments. The biggest take-away is being deliberate with your intentions and planning everything out, much like a lesson plan so that there are minimal surprises and that you are ready for them.

Realizing that Misericordia also isn’t perfect, kind of came throughout my month there. When I crossed over from main campus recreation to McAuley recreation there was a major disparity in resources, which was surprising. The residents at McAuley are all in wheelchairs, many non-verbal, and have limited range of motion entirely. Surprisingly they had very few resources, and instead the staff were extremely resourceful. That sort of opened my eyes to the fact that every system has issues, and Misericordia was no different. That doesn’t make them a bad place, just gives them something to work on in the future. Learning from the staff’s resourcefulness though was great, because I know that as a special education teacher I will often have to be resourceful with planning lessons and activities. Interacting with residents was great. We had many bus rides off campus for activities to talk with them, as well as I went to their apartment complex for dinner and we were able to build a close relationship that way. I got to see what activities residents wanted to go to. For example, bingo was always a big hit where we always ran out of space to put people. Meanwhile, rhythmic gymnastics ran around 10 to 15 residents every week. I learned that some residents struggled with imitation, which as I learned last semester can be taught and should be worked on in school. I also saw that many nonverbal residents had no way at all to communicate and were never taught any sign language, which severely limits their ability to functionally communicate what they want. My personal believe is that everyone needs a way to communicate, be it sign language, a visual board, or an alternative augmentative communication device such as an ipad.

In regards to growing as a person, well I learned to find the good in everything. These residents always seem to find the littlest reason to smile. A great example was the last day of Special Olympics. It was raining, cold, and windy. We were late to our assisted races and so they were unable to run to compete in states, but they let them run against each other for fun and every resident was so excited about it. They ignored all the bad things around them and were able to focus on that one great thing. I want to be like that, because life is hard sometimes. There are times where there are so many bad things then good things, but learning to truly find joy in those good things going on is how you have such a great attitude in life. I also personally grew in independence. I moved to a place I had only been once for a month. I learned a new transit system, bought my first two plane tickets in my life, learned to grocery shop and cook for myself. I thought moving to college was my growing up moment, but I learned so much going to Chicago as well.

Before I left Misericordia, I wrote down a few things I learned as life lessons that I also wanted to share. The first one is that there is a difference between being prepared and always fearing for the worst, the latter of which I am often guilty of. Before I went to Chicago I had started reflecting on last time I was there, and I thought about one resident who had been fairly sick and I was worried she would no longer be there. I actually saw her my first day at movie night and I realized I was fearing for the worst, when I could have just prepared myself for that but been optimistic. I also wrote that being present and being yourself is more than enough. I have always struggled with whether my best is really enough, or if I myself am really enough. On more than one occasion, I didn’t know the best way to be helpful, but being there was enough. For example, my second day we had outdoor track practice for Special Olympics. I have never helped with track specifically for individuals with disabilities, my background with special needs sports was cheerleading. Instead, I jumped right in and met residents and helped direct people. I had a few residents at the end tell me they were so glad I was there, and they could not wait to see me again. The last thing I wrote down as a takeaway was that someone is always cheering for you whether you know it or not. Throughout my time there I had more than one resident stop me and tell me that I was going to be a great teacher one day, and that I was good at this. That means a lot, especially because some days I did not know if I was going to be a decent teacher. I have a lot more confidence in myself because these individuals had nothing to gain by telling me that, and I never even told them I worried about that. They just told me they believed in me, and that is a great feeling.

All of this change is valuable because it is helping me grow into the best educator I can be. I have fully acknowledged that in order to be the best teacher I need a wide array of experiences and knowledge, and this trip has fulfilled this. This was not an educator role, instead it was recreation. It is easy to question how that is important or applicable to a future teacher. Though in the same way that general education students get breaks in the day, do field trips, and etc, so should my future students. Also many of the recreational activities helped with goals such as fine motor skill, sharing, paying attention, and etc which are all useable. These experiences will help me understand academic concepts in my future classes, and give me questions that I can ask that change interactions going forward.

Yes, it is obvious this internship will look great on a resume, but it was so much more than that for me. Sure, it might help me get a job but what I gained from this and how I have grown is what will enable me to teach in the most effective way going forward. It more than anything else though, helped me grow. I have become more confident in my abilities, and know that I am meant to do this. Since I have come home I had a long-term substitute placement as one-to-one aide in my local school district. I had been in this classroom before, but even the teachers noticed I knew a lot more since last January when I was in their class. I have so much more to learn academics wise but the chance to apply what I know was invaluable, and I very much look forward to my classroom placement this upcoming fall because I can apply some of what Misericordia taught me as well.


These pictures are from the Opening Ceremonies for Chicago’s 50th Special Olympics on May 3rd. I personally do not have any photos because staff is not permitted to take photos, but I do have these from their social media.

STEP Reflection Essay

During my 3 weeks stay in central Florida, I was granted the resources to shadow in two dental offices with specialized treatment in root canals and restorative dentistry.  With a total of 80 hours shadowed, I saw care for countless patients.  Given Melbourne, FL is a retirement destination, I experienced a unique look at many geriatric dental treatments.

My aunt and uncle kindly let me reside at their place during the duration of my STEP experience.  Perhaps unlike most students my age, my aunt and uncle are senior citizens in their early 70s.  Both dental offices where I shadowed were also operated by wonderful men from the same generation as my aunt and uncle.  It was the juxtaposition of my daily settings and the Baby Boomers that facilitated them that altered my perception of adapting to technology with age.

Rather than single out one example of this, the multiweek experience was full of them.  I selected Dr. Brown’s office because of his specialty in implant dentistry.  Implant dentistry is a progressive form of treatment that replaces lost teeth with a post that is drilled into the bone that has a false-tooth attached to it.  When I walked into his office I was very impressed with his equipment and facility.  The wrinkled, grey-haired man behind the dental drill was the very man who had the most current dental gadgets I have ever seen.  Every room had a TV monitor and a high-tech Sirona chair with a back-massage feature.  Dr. Brown worked with expensive drills and wrenches.  His crowning jewels were the chairside CAD machine and CEREC Omnicam.  These tools make the patient a custom onlay, veneer, crown, etc. in less than an hour.  They are expensive as can be, but a huge technological advancement in the field of dentistry that I was excited to see.  Dr. Brown’s practice was not all glam and no substance though. The staff were great and the dental artistry inspiring; but, the way he is embracing modern tools and technology is exceptional.  Meanwhile, once my 8-hour day shadowing at the office had concluded, I would return to my aunt’s home and see the opposite side of adapting to technology. Whether it was watching my aunt struggle with the DVR for minutes or having my uncle stare blankly at me when I asked him for the WIFI password, it was evident that the adaptation to technology was not consistent throughout their generation.

In the second office operated by Dr. Scott, I learned that sometimes there is no need to pursue every technological improvement.  One similarity I have seen in every dentist I have shadowed is the eagerness to learn more and Dr. Scott was no exception.  He knew that I had previous shadowing experience with another endodontist in Ohio.  During many of his root canals he would look up and ask me if I noticed any difference in technique or tools.  Dr. Jensen, the endodontist I shadowed previous, was a newly graduated doctor, yet I was continually surprised by how similar their work was.  The diagnostic tests, the instruments, the decision making was all they same.  Dr. Scott stressed to me how eager he is to find a better instrument or new technique, but that he never hears of one when he asks observers like me.  Of course, I am not expert, and he knows that, but he got his point across in that sometimes the new, shiny equipment is only that.  New and shiny are only worth it if they provide better results for the patient; and since nothing has, sometimes the smart thing is to stick to what works rather than what is progressive.  Dr. Scott, Dr. Brown, and my aunt and uncle alike, granted my unexpected insight to the varied approaches Baby Boomers may has to technological advancements.

As a 20-year-old, I have not had many dental problems.  Sure, I had braces for a year and it was not comfortable, but in the end, it was voluntary, not to mention paid for by my parents.  The side of dentistry I have experienced has had little pain and no consequences to my wallet; however, I saw the opposite during my STEP experience and it has transformed my understanding of the human condition of oral health and money in relation to age.

As previously mentioned, I pursued shadowing opportunities that would lend more toward elderly patients.  In Dr. Scott’s office, of all the procedures done, about 80% of them were treatment of people 65+ and in Dr. Brown’s office, it was around 50%.  No one wants to have a root canal and certainly no one wants to pay $1000+ dollars for it, but the patients who seemed the most bothered were the elderly.  Often at their age, they’ve had countless dental work; much of it from a time that was far less medicated on top of it.  One patient was nervous about her root canal people that tooth had a gold cap on it from way-back-when and she did not want Dr. Scott drilling through it to save her tooth, just to add an example of stubbornness born out of watching the wallet, but with a twinge of irony at the fact that she would rather save her failing, outdated dental work to keep a bit of gold.  In Dr. Brown’s office I saw several cases with denture fittings.  Nothing made me want to floss more than observing these patients expressing their frustration, discomfort, and embarrassment with their dentures.  After one of the appointments I stood in the hallway and realized as fully as I had ever understood how important it is to take care of and keep your 32 teeth for as long as you can.  Once these patients started losing teeth, they are embarrassed at the gaps or have trouble eating, so they want to replace them.  It is great that restorative dentistry is available, but it is expensive and not timely.  Dentures are the cheapest option, and often result is continual discomfort.  Dr. Brown has the skills to give implant surgery which is a great option for most people.  But, if someone has gone years without proper dental care, they’ll have too much bone loss to hold the screws and the option is out.  And even if the patient is a qualified candidate, no one wants the see that bill in 9-month treatment plan.  The dentists were as kind and professional as you could expect to patients living on retirement money and trying to save their smile, but they were 50 years too late and they knew it and now so do I.  I have a better understanding now of the hard conversations in dentistry, because the services are not free and are often painful; I have a lot of respect for the professionals like Dr. Scott and Dr. Brown who handle tough situations like these every day.

I went into this STEP experience knowing I wanted to be a dentist and I still want to be a dentist upon reflection, so nothing ground-breaking there; but I did learn a lot about the profession from people who have plenty of experience.  Dr. Brown taught me about the balance of owning a business and doing dentistry.  He was a huge proponent of continuing education and practicing the newest skills.  Implant dentistry is progressive and reflects his approach to his profession and it was fun to watch, but I do not see myself in his chair someday.  Although Dr. Scott did not speak of pushing forward and being on the forefront of dentistry, he spoke of doing what works and has always works.  I discovered endodontics is a redundant form of dentistry.  Root canals vary a little, but endodontics allows for repetition and perfection in ways other specialties do not.  It was not about new tools, it was about skills work the first time and every time, which is the direction I see my career going.  I have always had a heart for the elderly, still do; and, despite my initial assumptions, I saw a lot more elderly patients come though the doors of Dr. Scott’s office.  I am incredibly grateful for the procedures I got to see and the wisdom I gained from the time I got to spend with Dr. Brown and Dr. Scott.

Day 23 (6/28/18)

  • Daily stand up to discuss our progress
  • Had meeting about emotional intelligence, and its use in the work place
  • Refactored code.
  • Starting to piece together the front end and back end

Day 22 (6/27/18)

  • Stand up with team to discuss progress
  • Met with tester to discuss logging issues
  • Reviewed code that fixed a service life time error involving DI
  • Started to refactor code
  • Met with ITLP leaders to discuss our overall experience

Day 21 (6/26/18)

-Daily stand up with team to discuss progress

-Finished implementing a service

-Reviewed code written by mentor and other developer

-started to debug issues involving dependency injection(lifetime)

Day 20 (6/25/18)

-Stand up with team to discuss progress

-Planned what issues to address for upcoming sprint

-worked on implementing a service to save result and pull data from a config file


STEP Reflection Prompts

Name: Olivia Brownfield

Type of Project: Internship

  1. Please provide a brief description of your STEP Signature Project. 

My signature project was traveling to São Paulo, Brazil through the Fisher Global Projects Program. I worked with five other Fisher students on a month-long consulting project for Greif, Inc. revolving around a SKU rationalization.

  1. What about your understanding of yourself, your assumptions, or your view of the world changed/transformed while completing your STEP Signature Project? 

Over the month I spent living in Brazil, I experienced a number of different changes and shifts in my perception of the world. Before this trip, I thought I had been plenty exposed to diversity, but I didn’t realize how big of a difference there is between in-country diversity and intra-country diversity. Through the people I met, I learned about the Brazilian economy, politics, and what daily life looks like for Brazilian natives. Their lives seemed comfortable and appealing to me, and it helped get rid of an intrinsic American superiority complex I had. American is not necessarily a better place than Brazil, and there are certain aspects of Brazilian life that I identified with more than American culture, which I certainly wasn’t expecting. Brazilian culture is so welcoming, open, and relaxed. Because of how much it meant to me to be welcomed by this culture, I am going to put more of a focus on being a welcome and open person in my daily life. This trip also changed my view of myself, and I left Brazil feeling more confident in myself and my work.

3.  What events, interactions, relationships, or activities during your STEP Signature   Project led to the change/transformation that you discussed in#2, and how did those affect you? 

During our stay in Brazil, we lived and worked in São Paulo during the weeks, and traveled on the weekends. The first weekend we travelled to Paraty, a small coastal town in the state of São Paulo; the second weekend we traveled to Salvador, a colonial city with its roots deep in African culture; the final weekend, we traveled to Rio de Janeiro, the first place people think of when they picture Brazil. The traveling we did allowed us to see all different areas of Brazil and experience different cultures along the way; the travel helped me realize that Brazil is not one big homogenous country but a country as big as the continental United States with just as much diversity, and was one of the major events that led to the breakdown of my previous opinions about America v. other countries.

One thing I was hoping for but not really expecting out of our trip was the make friends with Brazilians. We definitely accomplished this, and everyone we interacted with was immediately open and warm with us, which in turn allowed me to really open up to the country. Campus Brazil (the student tourism agency that Fisher partnered with for the on-ground logistics of our trip) was not only a resource to us, but also a source of friendship. The people we worked with at Greif were so friendly towards us; on the first day of work a group of employees invited us to sit with them at lunch, and from then on they made a point to include us whenever they hung out. Through them, we learned about the language, the current state of Brazilian politics and pop culture, and about what the daily life of an average Brazilian might look like. The open and welcome relationships we developed helped me realize how much of a difference being welcoming to new people can make. Because of this, I’m going to make more of a conscious effort in my own life to be welcoming and open to new people.

The work experience itself was also transformational. In Brazil we were living on our own, cooking all of our own meals, and working jobs with regular hours; we were living adult lives, and I left feeling more mature than when I came because of it. I became more confident in my work, I learned how to effectively work in a team to accomplish a huge task, and I learned how to better manage my time. One specific experience that was very transformational was our final presentation. Our final presentation was to a room full of executives, which I found to be incredibly nerve-wracking. This was the most important presentation of my life, because we spent so long on the work and didn’t have a clue how these important people would react. Going into that situation, I had to force myself to be confident under pressure, and take comfort in my team members and the work we had done. This taught me a lot about teamwork and having confidence in myself.

4.  Why is this change/transformation significant or valuable for your life? 

Personally, I became a more open-minded person. I had always considered myself to be open-minded, but learning about a different culture and coming to understand that cultures aren’t better than one another, just different, was really important for me. Being open-minded is in general important for your personal life, as you can appreciate different types of people and continue to grow as a person. You can’t have growth without being open to changing your mind, so I definitely benefitted from the trip in that way. I also never thought that I would want to end up outside of the United States before this trip, but after being so comfortable living in a foreign country for a month, my views have definitely changed. I could now see myself spending the rest of my life living in a country like Brazil, with a more relationship-focused and relaxed atmosphere, which is a major shift from my previous future plans.

Professionally, my internship was very helpful- it was a hands-on education in business compared to the one I received in college. I got to learn about plant operations, product lines, and how to research data in an effective in efficient manner, all of which could be useful bits of knowledge for a future career. We did not receive a lot of direction on our project, which forced me to seek out solutions for myself and be confident in my work without needing the assurance of others, which I think will overall make me better at any job. Our final presentation was the most official/important presentation of my life, and preparing and executing that helped me become a better presenter for life, which is a very important skill to have in the business world. Lastly, it reaffirmed for me that consulting is a field I’m very interested in. Before this trip I thought that in theory it might be something I’d enjoy, but actually working on a consulting project was an enjoyable experience and reassures me that I am on the right career path.

Day 19 (6/21/18)

-Met with team to discuss progress

-Had a review session about the first sprint of the project

-Toured the microelectronics lab

-Had a retrospective for the first sprint

Day 18 (6/20/18)

-Met with team about progress

-Discussed about refining the issues needed to be fixed

-Networking with various ITLP

-After work networking event to meet IT employees in different positions

Day 17 (6/19/18)

-Discussed Leadership competency with the corporate staff

-Met with team to discuss progress

-Had a brainstorming session to discuss UX