Kayla (center) and other Center volunteers enjoying a Sickle Cell Anemia Event.

I came across the Center by accident. My university, Grand Valley, had shared the internship posting on their social media and it just happened to catch my eye.

I wasn’t looking for an internship, nor did I have availability in my schedule, but there I was a week before classes started, changing my course and work schedules. From the internship post, I knew this was an opportunity I could not pass up. My time at the Children’s Healing Center has proven that initial inclination to be true.

Little Tots University members and Kayla (second from right) getting a visit from the mailman.

My name is Kayla Quinn and I am the Administrative Intern at the Children’s Healing Center. I am going into my senior year at Grand Valley State University, double majoring in Allied Health Sciences and Nonprofit Administration with an emphasis in Community Health. The Children’s Healing Center was a perfect blend of my two majors. I learned about different diagnoses and some of the cleanliness practices the Center implements from my science courses. For example, in Microbiology I learned in-depth about how the Center’s HEPA air filtration system is effective in reducing pathogens and infectious agents from the air. My nonprofit courses aided me in this internship, as well. In class, I had been exposed to nonprofit financial statements, dealing with volunteer motivations based on demographics, and applying for grants. While this knowledge is great, nothing beats seeing these aspects of a nonprofit in action.

Circle Time for Little Tots University members

The main reason I am choosing to pursue a future career in the nonprofit sector is because of the importance I put on community. I believe a strong community is transformative. Nonprofits fill those essential gaps in communities that would have otherwise been looked over. It has become apparent to me that the Children’s Healing Center not only cultivates community within its membership but also is interconnected with the Greater Grand Rapids community. In my classes we study organizations that were unsuccessful since they viewed collaboration as competition. It was so awesome to see how the Center utilizes partnerships with universities, health facilities, local businesses, patient care providers, and other non-profits in order to best serve its members.

“It has become apparent to me that the Children’s Healing Center not only cultivates community within its membership but is also interconnected with the Greater Grand Rapids Community.”

While I gained a multitude of knowledge from this internship, a big lesson I am going to take away from this experience is the importance of storytelling. I had the privilege to work on a variety of the Center’s marketing materials and grants. This work taught me that good leaders are also good storytellers. In the nonprofit sector, it is crucial that nonprofits effectively convey information about the work they do, the population they serve, and their mission to the external world. The Center’s messaging is a form of storytelling that elicits an emotional response while also establishing the value the Children’s Healing Center brings to the community. I am definitely still a work-in-progress, but this experience helped me to think more critically about messaging and to relate everything back to the mission.

Kayla steering the Polar Express train during a holiday event at the Center.

“This experience helped me to think more critically about messaging and to relate everything back to the mission.”

The Center is mission-driven in every aspect of their work. They are so mission driven in fact, that all staff and interns are engaged weekly with programs. While this was a requirement for me, it never felt like one. My morning volunteer shifts were one of my favorite aspects of the internship; it helped ensure I could see the mission of the Children’s Healing Center in action, on a weekly basis. I enjoyed seeing friendships formed and learning happen. The Center is truly an accommodating and inclusive place for these strong kids to play like kids again. I am happy that I got to be a small part of that.

Kayla and Children’s Healing Center members playing with scarfs during music therapy.

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