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Internship Report

Rena Gardenswartz: Boys and Girls Club of Metro Denver

My internship was completed during the summer of 2007 at the Boys and Girls Club of Metro Denver (BGCMD). I was hired by Tina Martinez, BGCM's Program Director, and Tonja Mitchell, BGCMD's Character and Leadership Development Director, to facilitate and expand the organization's Words Can Heal program. Words Can Heal is a bullying prevention curriculum for youth ages 6-16 focusing on verbal aggression among youth.

GardenswartzBecause my internship responsibilities required me to work with children inside several Boys and Girls Club facilities, as well as in the organization's corporate office, I gained valuable insight into several aspects of the bullying prevention field. First, working directly with youth, observing their behavior and attitudes surrounding peer-to-peer conflict, was very useful to my understanding of the daily conflicts that take place among young people. Second, my implementation of the Words Can Heal bullying prevention program allowed me to experience both the power and pitfalls of a course attempting to train young people in positive peer interactions and conflict resolution techniques. Finally, the opportunity to participate in the administrative side of such a program taught me a lot about some of the obstacles faced by adults attempting to implement a successful bullying prevention agenda.

I researched new activities that could be added to the curriculum to improve results, supplement existing lesson plans, and provide alternatives to the program leaders. This experience was extremely rewarding as I became familiar with many organizations and professionals worldwide that work to train young people in bullying prevention and positive verbal interactions. After sifting through the many ideas for new bullying prevention activities posted online by various teachers and school counselors, I discussed options with my supervisor. Ultimately, we settled on more than 20 activities that would serve as good additions to Words Can Heal. My next task was to write up each new activity in a format similar to the one being used for the curriculum's existing activities. These will be added to the new version of the Words Can Heal booklet that is made available to Boys and Girls Club program leaders across Denver.

During my time at the Clubs, I taught several of the existing Words Can Heal activities to youth on their summer vacations. In addition, I piloted several of ht newly researched activities to assess how successful they were with the youth. Interestingly, some activities were received more positively at particular clubs than others. This time spent working directly with the young people was invaluable. It left me with several important insights into popular youth culture, the types of conflicts had by young people, the strategies youth use to resolve arguments, and an understanding of the general reactions children have to character development curricula such as Words Can Heal.

As a bonus, my supervisor at the Boys and Girls Club invited me to attend and participate in a local conference on bullying prevention and intervention, sponsored by the Colorado Trust. This was a great experience and was a helpful way to network with other local professionals who are active in the field of bullying prevention. I appreciated the opportunity to be involved with this conference, and have attended several other similar events since then on my own.

My internship with the Boys and Girls Club was an extremely positive experience and matched my interests perfectly. As a result of my time there, I made important connections with local, regional, and international experts in the field of bullying and also learned a lot from the youth with which I interacted. I would highly recommend this organization as a place to intern in the future.