Zoe, a Tufts alumna, shared the following about her experience as a Summer Research Assistant with Ramapo for Children …
What did you do as an intern at this organization?
Ramapo for Children runs a residential summer camp for children with social, emotional, and behavioral challenges. Some campers have Autism Spectrum Disorder diagnoses, while other have histories of trauma, abuse, and neglect. I worked as a research assistant to collect and analyze data related to the management of difficult camper behaviors. Upon arriving, we assessed the functionality of the existing programming and identified structures in need of improvement. After analyzing the existing programming, we designed and implemented interventions to improve camper behavior during challenging times of the day. Both during and after implementation, we collected data to measure the effectiveness of a given intervention. In addition to research, I also spent part of each day working directly with campers, helping to create and implement individualized behavior management plans for campers who were struggling to control their behavior independently.
How did you find this internship?
As a recently-declared Clinical Psychology and Child Studies & Human Development double major, I was looking for an opportunity to work with youth with clinical needs and was connected to Camp Ramapo by a family friend. After researching Ramapo, I was impressed with their nearly century-long commitment to serving children with unique needs.
What did you enjoy most about your internship?
Ramapo for Children creates a traditional camp experience for youth who would not otherwise get the opportunity to attend summer camp due to financial or behavior-related barriers. My time at Ramapo allowed me the opportunity to work with children with a huge range of needs. Working with these campers helped me hone my future career interests. For example, my time at Ramapo led me to write a senior thesis about group behavior interventions for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Beyond shaping my future career interests, I also enjoyed the program evaluation component of the internship, as it helped me gain a deeper understanding of what goes into developing and implementing effective behavior management programming.
What did you find challenging?
Conducting research at Ramapo came with many challenges, as ability to control conditions was imited. Many of the interventions tested were time-specific, meaning that on days when there was a special event or change in the schedule, we were unable to do data collection. Additionally, the interventions targeted group behavior, so when a member of the group was not present, it impacted our data collection.
What advice would you offer to someone who wants to make the most of an internship like yours?
I would urge interns to take advantage of opportunities to get involved in many different stages of the research process (i.e., intervention implementation, evaluation) in order to gain a deeper understanding of the big picture of nonprofit evaluation. I would also urge interns to think about balancing their desire to work clinically with children with their interest in conducting evaluations with children. While both involve direct contact with children, the experience each provides is very different. Managing one’s expectations in this regard is important to having a fulfilling internship experience.
About the Organization
Ramapo’s mission is to keep young people from being relegated to the margins of their schools, programs, families, or communities because of challenging behaviors, cognitive disabilities, or other differences. We do this by offering the adults in their lives a new lens through which to view challenging behaviors, and presenting a set of techniques and tools that, when mastered, enable adults to meet children’s needs and create nurturing environments in which all children can thrive.