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York College senior finds Recreation internship with older adults to be perfect fit

Kelsey Williams’ internship at Friend’s House Retirement Community provides valuable on-the-job learning.

Ask a student, only a few months away from starting her career, how she became interested in working with older adults, and she’ll probably tell you it’s something she’s been interested in since childhood. Right?   

“Actually, no,” says Kelsey Williams, a senior at York College.    

Kelsey is on track to graduate this December in Recreation and Leisure Administration with a focus in Recreational Therapy. But, that wasn’t always the plan.  

“I changed majors three times,” she says with a chuckle. “My first semester, I was Criminal Justice. Then, I went to Education/Special Needs because I thought I wanted to work with kids, but it wasn’t really for me.”     

As she began her junior year, Kelsey moved into Recreation and took a class in Program Planning. Part of the curriculum brought Kelsey and her classmates to a senior living facility once a week. She found she really enjoyed the visits.   

“I got to plan and run two programs that semester,” Kelsey says. “And having that opportunity to work directly with the residents is when I decided, ‘Yeah, this is what I want to do.’”   

At home in Friend’s House 

Friend’s House Retirement Community in Sandy Springs, Maryland — just outside of Washington, D.C. —cooperates with York College in providing student internships. In May of this year, Kelsey began her Friend’s House internship.   

“It’s great. I love it,” she says.   

Her time at Friend’s House has given Kelsey the opportunity to interact with the residents, as well as work with the Activities Director, which is the job she wants after graduation.    

“I definitely feel this internship is giving me a more complete picture of what I’m going to do,” she says. “I’ve volunteered in other facilities before, but I was only able to experience activities with the residents. At Friend’s House, I can see what goes on behind the scenes.”    

Kelsey says she enjoys those times when she can be involved in higher-level activities, like attending Care-Plan meetings.   

“A Care-Plan meeting includes managers and residents or resident family members, and we basically map out the goals that are set up for the resident,” she says.    

Working with the staff gives Kelsey a clear understanding for what’s going on with each of the residents.    

“We have these other meetings called stand ups. It’s a morning meeting that touches on each resident and what might be going on or what kinds of limitations each one may have that particular day. It really helps get to know them individually.”   

One of the highlights so far for Kelsey is conducting patient assessments, which evaluate the residents’ overall progress or the decline in their condition.   

“I actually get to do assessments, whereas before it was just something I learned about in class,” she says.    

At Friend’s House, Kelsey is learning how to enter those results in the computer in the form of annual check-ins and progress notes and then sees how that information is applied.   

“Keeping up with all of that is a big part of being an Activities Director, so being able to do that kind of back-end detail is really cool,” she says. “I like it.”   

It all comes down to relationships 

 “Just being around the residents is my favorite part of doing this,” Kelsey says.  

Many of the resident activities at Friend’s House are built around memory care. Kelsey really enjoys those times when the residents will add their own bits and pieces to the conversation.   

“We do a lot of trivia, or talk about biographies of popular people, and they always seem to have something else to add to whatever we’ve planned,” she says. “So, I learn things, too.”    

Along with group activities, residents also get one-on-one time with room visits – another chance to connect on a different level.    

“Some may like music, so we’ll bring in a particular kind of music to have as background. Some love to read but can’t physically do it themselves, so it may just be us reading to them,” she says.   

Kelsey is a very social person and enjoys getting to know all kinds of people. Exploring her future career and getting to know our older adult population is something she feels very good about.   

“Getting close to people and building relationship with others is really helpful for them,” she says, “but I know, not only am I helping them out, but they’re helping me out.”