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The University Star

The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

LiveOak celebrates a decade of cognitive disability care

Rosey Mendoza
President of the Seaton Foundation Rachel Medina delivers inspiring closing remarks, Tuesday, April 30, 2024, at the 10th Annual Internship Graduation Reception.

Fifteen Texas State students gathered at the Price Center to partake in the Learning Community for Cognitive Disabilities Internship’s formal intern graduation ceremony on April 30, having the largest cohort in the program’s history.

The Seaton Foundation, a nonprofit organization founded in 1984 focused on improving the quality of life of people with cognitive disabilities, established the internship. Rachel Medina, Seaton Foundation president, said the internship’s goal was to provide people with hands-on experience with people who have cognitive disabilities.

“What we saw is people got away from seeing individuals as the diagnosis and seeing them as real human beings with thoughts and feelings and goals and ambitions and people they can form relationships with and get to know over time,” Medina said

The internship program started in 2014 as a collaboration between The Seaton Foundation and Texas State’s Psychology Department. It takes place at LiveOak Living Community, an assisted living facility in Martindale for adults with cognitive disabilities. Since its foundation, the program saw more than 175 interns and grew to include five different departments related to their degree.

For students, it is a more personal job experience than reading about it in a textbook. Each of the graduates spoke about what they got out of their semester-long internship experience, with most of them mentioning individual residents who made a personal impact on them.

Angie Carballo, Seaton Foundation secretary and treasurer, heard about LiveOak from Medina while they both worked on their master’s in psychological research at Texas State. She started her internship in February 2014 because she had an interest in what it could accomplish for her.

“I also needed a job, but also I was interested in the idea of working with people who have cognitive disabilities because I’ve never done anything like that before,” Carballo said. “Previously, I did retail, I worked at Smitty’s at Lockhart serving barbecue and came out, interviewed and I got the job.”

Carballo started as direct support, working directly with the residents and enjoyed making a difference in people’s lives. She said part of the reason she stuck around for so long is the people she has worked with.

“On top of that, the relationships that you for when you’re in this field is mind blowing,” Carballo said. “People become like family to you, and you work really hard to provide a lot for them simply because of that.”

Interns complete between 120–400 hours within a semester, depending on their major and class requirements. During their time, interns also attend staff meetings, turn in weekly assignments and create a club based on their personal interests, such as pottery or a choir.

“Part of our goal is to shape students’ understanding of mental health and also hopefully get away from that stigma they’re coming in with,” Medina said. “The assignments are geared toward humanizing the people they’re going to be working with on a daily basis.”

Grace Garrison-Tate, a psychology junior, began her internship this spring. At the ceremony, she became the recipient of the Dr. Ollie Seay Excellence Award, named after a Texas State Clinal Associate Professor and advocate for people with intellectual disabilities who died last September. The internship gives out the award to a student dedicated to bettering the lives of people with cognitive disabilities.

Garrison-Tate said her favorite part about the internship was getting close to the residents. One day, they went to an art museum and on the way back she asked the residents their favorite part about the experience.

“One of the residents said, ‘It was a contemporary museum. I didn’t get any of it, but the souvenir shop was really fun,'” Garrison-Tate said. “It was funny things the residents would say and getting to talk to them and understand them and know they also understood me.”

The internship provides benefits for the interns’ futures. After they graduate, some have the opportunity to continue working at LiveOak based on their experience with their internship, which can expand into full-time positions.

To learn more about the Seaton Foundation Internship Programs, visit its website at https://www.seatonfoundation.org/copy-of-internship-opportunities.

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