Whether organizing a major fundraising effort or teaching youth how to use the bus system, Robert Hinojosa and Clare Walter are helping solve a major problem for Arkansas‚Äô youth in foster care. The two students are interns with Immerse Arkansas, a non-profit dedicated to helping these youth transition into adulthood. The organization was created in 2008 when Eric and Kara Gilmore had a fresh idea about a chronic problem – Arkansas‚Äô loss of hundreds of foster kids to the streets when they turn 18. It‚Äôs a huge snag in the foster care system. The Gilmores saw it as the result of fractured personal relationships with God, Self, Others and Society – relationships they could help heal. And so Immerse Arkansas was born.
Their holistic vision guides an impressive operation that is rapidly gaining speed and breadth and that‚Äôs why Clare is there. As a second year student in the Master of Social Work program at UALR, Clare chose to specialize in management and community practice. ‚ÄúShe‚Äôs doing important community outreach for Immerse,‚ÄĚ says Eric, citing a couple of grants that she has already written and won. ‚ÄúClare has a lot of energy, and a good understanding and grasp of social justice,‚ÄĚ he says. ‚ÄúShe helps us take a critical look at what we‚Äôre doing and how we‚Äôre doing it.‚ÄĚ Integrating interns into Immerse has been a foundational element of their success. In fact, last year‚Äôs intern, Jonathon Howland, was recently hired as a program manager for Immerse. Eric says that involving MSW interns from UALR has been critical to their work.
Robert – also finishing his second year in the MSW program – is specializing in social work that centers on direct practice and individual therapy. ‚ÄúHe is already really strong clinically,‚ÄĚ Eric says. ‚ÄúHe does a really good job working with people, and that has been a huge help.‚ÄĚ Robert‚Äôs role with Immerse is different than Clare‚Äôs, but no less far-reaching. He is a transitional coach for a caseload of youth currently aging out of foster care. ‚ÄúTo be able to see someone who is homeless, addicted to drugs, and living on the streets, and then to see them living in their own place, sober for six months, and holding two jobs is amazing,‚ÄĚ he says excitedly. ‚ÄúThey‚Äôre ready to be molded, ready to succeed, and when you get to be with them through that ‚Äď it‚Äôs awesome.‚ÄĚ
This article is part of series highlighting the work of MSW interns from the UALR School of Social Work.