ETSU students have eye-opening experience at domestic violence shelter

By Greg Miller
STAR STAFF
gmiller@starhq.com

  
Three Shepherd's Inn volunteer student interns who are part of an internship cooperative in East Tennessee State University's social work department are making a huge contribution to the organization's success, according to Executive Director, Paul Gabinet.
   "This is part of their academic program through East Tennessee State University," Gabinet said. "This internship program is a star, I think, for the social work department, and more of the departments at the university are trying to integrate intern programs within their curriculum."
   Megan Mast, Brandon Campbell, and Diana Puckett all wanted to do volunteer work at Shepherd's Inn, a local shelter for battered and abused women and their children, according to Gabinet. "Frankly, we're thrilled with it," Gabinet said, "and they're thrilled with it.
   "I think the university does an excellent job of preparing them before they come into this. When they come in, they are very excited. These students are biting at the bit to do something."
   The work Mast, Campbell and Puckett do also involves a cooperative program Shepherd's Inn has arranged with the Elizabethton Housing and Development Agency.
   "The students get not only a little bit of the shelter experience from a small private nonprofit, but they are also up at the housing agency part of the time with a governmental program getting that experience as well. That's pretty impressive. They're working with two different types of clientele, and they're getting two different types of viewpoints and doing really well with it," Gabinet stated.
   Campbell said some of the work involves public relations efforts, in that volunteers work at a booth set up at the local YMCA to help promote the shelter.
   "We explain to the community how to get in contact with us," Campbell said. Campbell and Mast have also been working on developing radio and newspaper advertisements for Shepherd's Inn.
   In addition to completing the internship requirements, Campbell said he became involved with the program "to do something to help the community. There are not too many jobs where you get a chance to actually see a difference that you've made affect that many people and really feel like you've done something for your community."
   Mast said the experience has educated her about domestic violence issues and opened her eyes to certain negative realities that most members of a community don't necessarily face or accept.
   "I've never really been around to know what anything like domestic violence is," Mast said. "It's really opened my eyes to different things, and to be able to share that with people I know and people in the community is our main goal."
   Mast and Campbell believe their experience as interns will influence their future in a positive way. "I think any experience is good experience," Mast said. "I don't have any idea what I'm going to do with a job. You could be advertising anything from dirt to a big magazine, so you have to have experience with doing anything and working with people. I think any experience is good, and it's going to help with both of us working together. It helps to work with other people, instead of just doing something on your own."
   Campbell said he enjoys working with a small group of people rather than completing an internship with a large advertising department at a large, established company. "You don't get that hands-on experience. You don't feel like you're really a part of the team.
   "That's one thing I like about this. We feel like we're a part of something that's going to make a difference, something that will give us the experience, not only in our career, but in our personal lives, too."
   Campbell also praised Gabinet's hard work helping the clients his organization serves.
   "You can see that their lives have been changed, and I've heard nothing but positive feedback about the Inn. I really couldn't find a better person to work with than Paul," Campbell said.
   The Shepherd's Inn Internship Program began just two years ago with only one student. "I've had six students with me this year," remarked Gabinet, who said the program has achieved "wonderful results on both sides. It's been a great success."
   Gabinet is looking for five additional volunteers to serve on an on-call basis. Volunteer training will begin the first of September.
   For more information, write Shepherd's Inn, P.O. Box 2214, Elizabethton, TN 37644, or call 542-0180.