For several decades, St. Olaf social work students have been getting on-the-job-learning experiences as part of a partnership with Laura Baker Services Association (LBSA). St. Olaf senior, Anabelle Xiong, is the most recent in a long line of students who have completed a semester-long internship here.

Anabelle is from St. Paul, MN. She comes from a large family with eight siblings. She and two of her siblings are first-generation college students. Anabelle first heard about St. Olaf from her high school teachers. She came to visit the St. Olaf campus as part of a college readiness program, TRIO. Not long after that, Annabelle was an Ole.

Much like the work life of a social worker, Anabelle’s internship at LBSA included a wide variety of experiences. She spent time with clients at LBSA’s community homes. On any given afternoon, Anabelle might have played games, had informal conversations, have taken clients to the store, helped prepare snacks or was involved in a wide variety of other activities. She also helped support the person-centered goal planning which is central to LBSA’s mission. This involved helping Qs (LBSA behavior analysts) write curriculum specifically relating to healthy online relationships and safety. Anabelle created a helpful visual decision chart summarizing Health Department and CDC guidance on testing and follow-up when someone develops COVID-19 symptoms or has a known exposure. This chart is now being used at all LBSA houses.

Anabelle had never worked with individuals with developmental disabilities. This was a factor in her decision to intern at LBSA so she could challenge herself. “It challenged my perspective on how to engage and communicate with people. At first, it was a challenge, but over time communicating got easier and I realized everyone just wants to be treated as human.” She says the most enjoyable part of her time here were things she couldn’t necessarily learn in a classroom, like helping clients problem solve and learning how to be an integrated part of an organization.

Anabelle expects to graduate in May of 2022 and then plans to take a gap year or two to narrow down her field of graduate study. She hopes to end up in social work or counseling at some point in the next three to five years. Anabelle is a great example of the mutual benefits that are created during internships at LBSA. Students gain experiences and learnings beyond what can be achieved in the classroom, and LBSA clients and the organization as a whole benefit tremendously from contributions that students like Anabelle make. Thank you, Anabelle!