Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Jola Leary and Brianna LaMonica

It isn’t very often that a high school student knows what they want to pursue for a career. The majority of college students will change their major in their four years, or enter a field after graduation completely unrelated to their degree.

For Brianna LaMonica, that wasn’t the case. A graduate of Pinkerton Academy in Derry, N.H., Brianna had a passion for American Sign Language (ASL). She liked the idea of communicating in other languages, but it was her shy demeanor that influenced her to purchase an ASL dictionary.

“[From there], it just kind of took off,” LaMonica said. “It’s addicting; it’s just something that feels comfortable. Sometimes it’s easier for me to express myself in ASL than in English. It’s the people in the community that keep me going and learning.”

Now a senior at UNH Manchester, pursuing a bachelor’s in Communication Arts with a minor in ASL and Deaf Studies, LaMonica has immersed herself in the Deaf community. From late May to early September 2015, she held an internship at The Children’s Center for Communication and Beverly School for the Deaf (CCCBSD) in Beverly, Mass. — all while taking classes and working two other jobs (one of which is as a direct support professional, working one-on-one with Deaf clients).

CCCBSD is unique as far as schools for the Deaf. Jocelyn Clark, assistant program director at CCCBSD, explains, “We have a lot of students who are Deaf, along with special needs.” This gave LaMonica a unique opportunity to witness and engage different approaches for students with a wide variety of strengths and tribulations.

“The exposure from the school’s opportunities has opened my eyes to paths with ASL beyond the interpreting aspect,” LaMonica said. “I worked with a student who did not sign, did not speak, it was just pictures — so that in and of itself was language. My biggest takeaway was that there are different ways of communicating beyond the preconceived methods of communication."

LaMonica learned the importance of adaptability, as well. What may work one day, may not the next, or what works with one student, may not transfer to another student.

“You have to be able to adjust on the spot, so you need to have a plan A, B, C, and D in the moment," LaMonica said. "As you get to know the student, you develop those plans and you figure out who you’re working with and why you’re working this way with them.”

The internship opportunities afforded to UNH Manchester students are plenty. Each degree program has unique opportunities with local businesses and schools, where they can apply their learning from the classroom and develop the skills necessary to enter the workforce upon graduation.

At CCCBSD, LaMonica was able to get involved and gain experience in a career she wants to pursue.

Clark broke down the roles and objectives of an intern, “As she became familiar with the needs of each student and the rules of the classroom, she was invited to sit with the student and help them the staff with any component in the running of the classroom (though never solely responsible for the classroom.) Interns see our students go to art, music, gym, etc., so get an appreciation that no Deaf student looks the same – they have different strengths and weaknesses. Finding that balance, so that they can foster the emotional and learning development is what the internship is all about.”

As much as students get out of internship, the host sites do as well. CCCBSD has been thrilled with its now three UNH Manchester interns, and trusts the caliber of student that comes from college. Host sites have the opportunity to post on UNH Manchester’s job board, creating a network of job opportunities within the community.

Students interested in pursuing an internship should talk with their advisor and contact the Internship & Career Planning office.

UNH Manchester offers the career-driven programs, faculty talent and student-centered community to shape your future.
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