As a journalism student at the University of Missouri, I always hear professors insisting that each student apply for a summer internship. I even sat through lectures that were focused on how to get an internship. But while my friends were applying for any opportunity they saw, I wanted to make sure that my experience actually held a special place in my heart. I soon found myself applying to intern with Special Olympics Missouri, and I did not regret the decision.
Many of my friends think of an internship as going and getting coffee and running errands for those that are above them. I never once had this assumption of my internship ever since I met Brandon (SOMO’s PR Manager) for the first time. I knew that I was going to be doing so much more than ordering coffees.
My first official day on the job was the first day of State Summer Games in Springfield. I initially thought that those two days were going to be filled with me simply running around and taking photos. But it was so much more than that; I had the opportunity to see people truly love on one another.
As I walked about on Missouri State University’s campus I got to see the genuine love that everyone involved in Special Olympics has for one another. It was not limited to athletes and coaches, but it expanded to staff members, volunteers and board members.
I felt fully immersed in the Special Olympics community and that weekend I told myself I would never leave it.
After Summer Games, I also had the opportunity to attend the annual Sports Camp at the Missouri Military Academy in Mexico. This camp gave me the chance to talk with athletes a little bit more than I had at Summer Games, learn about the different sports and realize I’ve been waiting in long cafeteria lines my whole life.
Some athletes even remembered seeing me at Summer Games, which was not something that I had expected at all. And just like anyone else they still made sure to ask me if I had taken photos of them and if they could see said photos.
Throughout my internship thus far I have never seen anyone upset or angry. Everyone has been happy, joyful even. This organization gives me hope that every person can find happiness in this world and that happiness is contagious.
Addendum: August 17, 2015
Today marks my last day of coming into the office to help Brandon with logos, videos and spreadsheets. It is my last day of coming in and hearing the chatter and laughter between each of the cubicles. It is my last day of being able to see the smiling faces of the organization all around me.
My internship with Special Olympics Missouri has done a lot more than just allow me to expand my public relations portfolio. In a way, it has made me more aware of what I am saying and why.
I have become a lot more intentional about the words I choose and I try to make sure that when I speak, there is reason behind it. I do not just want to say something merely for the enjoyment of speaking. When I speak, I want my words to have power and I believe that my internship has helped me start on this path.
Although my days of being considered an intern here are through, I still plan on volunteering, spreading the word and most likely jumping in a body of really cold water this winter (www.somo.org/Plunge).
Thank you to everyone who works with, volunteers with and competes with Special Olympics. You instill hope and love into those around you and those are things that we need more of in this world.
I am a proud fan of all of the athletes of Special Olympics and I encourage everyone to be a fan.
Brooke Wiggins is a junior Strategic Communications-Public Relations major at the University of Missouri.