February 28 2023

Achieve college interns become mental health support specialists through People Incorporated partnership

Achieve College Interns at People Incorporated

Patrick Smith, Dinah Tedros and Shaquille Young say they will be more confident in their careers because of the specialized training and support they received this summer at People Incorporated in Eagan. Achieve Twin Cities formed a partnership with the nonprofit mental health provider – the largest in Minnesota – to connect these three Achieve College Internships participants with focused professional experiences and networks to help launch their careers.

After completing their junior years in college, Patrick, Dinah and Shaquille participated in Achieve College internships with clear goals: they wanted summer roles that would provide one-to-one experience serving people in the community and help them build skills in health or mental health counseling, teaching or social work. By partnering with People Incorporated, Achieve was able to provide the kind of supported, focused mental health field training opportunities these students were seeking.

Their summer internships were filled with professional learning and a nine-week Pathways Achieve Apprenticeship Trainee (PAAT) Program which culminated at a graduation ceremony at the People Incorporated main office in August.  The PAAT experience included five weeks of training, beginning with two weeks of classroom work that focused on personalized development, skill building, client management and safety assessment. Patrick, Dinah and Shaquille next spent three weeks shadowing mental health practitioners on site in the community. This intensive training prepared them for a final four weeks of full-time work in residential programs.

The three worked 36 hours a week during their summer internships, logging 752 collective hours. They served people of all ages who were living with mental illnesses that ranged from depression and anxiety to bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. They also made new professional friends and offered encouragement to one another in alignment with People Inc.’s cultural commitment to showing respect, offering trust, being transparent and creating energy.

Shaquille is a senior at Augsburg University in Minneapolis, majoring in social work and minoring in psychology. “I was looking for an internship that would take me deeper into mental health because I want to focus my career on normalizing mental illness,” he said. “Learning the clinical side of mental health and wellness and the effects of medications was extremely helpful in preparing me for a career as a school social worker. So was learning how to be people-centered and speaking to individuals in a tone and manner that is beneficial to them.”

Dinah is in her senior year at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities with a major in health and well-being sciences and a minor in public health. After several years of being there for friends and family, including some who were experiencing depression and anxiety, she realized she could make a career of supporting people. “I want to be a health coach, and this training is important for my career,” she said. “It taught me that different situations require different approaches, and how to respect boundaries. My greatest success was working with someone in adult foster care. They opened up quickly and felt comfortable with me, and they remembered me when I came back. I like supporting people. I could do this for the rest of my life.”

Patrick is majoring in psychology at Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota and seeks a career in high school counseling. Patrick said, “I was nervous at first, but then I met a client who normally doesn’t talk to staff. We talked for a while on the first day, and then they became more open with me, leading us to have lunch together and play games. It was very fulfilling to have meaningful interactions.” Patrick believes he’s now more prepared to support his future students. “They will come to me with issues and problems and ask me to help solve them, and the skills I learned in this program will help me do that.”

The benefits of the People Incorporated training are crystal clear to these three interns, who earned their mental health support specialist credential. “If you’re trying to figure what you want to do in your life, and want to work in mental health, it’s a good program and a good chance to network,” said Shaquille.

“And if you want to get an idea of mental health to see if it’s something you might like, this is the place to do it.” Patrick adds, “It wasn’t always easy, but the staff gave us a lot of support and it was meaningful work.” Dinah agrees. “I found my passion through this program.”

People Incorporated training manager Kathryn Dunleavy says this Achieve student cohort was a tremendous gift to her organization. “I love their energy and excitement about what they learned to benefit the people they’re helping, and themselves. We invite them to continue exploring the field with us.”

Achieve Twin Cities is tremendously grateful for this partnership with People Incorporated and excited that these college interns received such outstanding training, built professional skills, and expanded their networks in preparation for beginning their professional careers after college. 

Learn more about Achieve College Internships and how you can become an employer or intern.