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Elmhurst Is Like Family for Three WLU Interns

Photos Provided Three West Liberty University seniors are currently serving internships at Elmhurst, The House of Friendship assisted living residence in Wheeling. Seated in front are social study majors Kaitlyn Paree, left, and Emily Evans. Standing from left are Jonathan Droginske, a healthcare management major; Melissa Mansuetto, assistant program director; Jamie Crow, Elmhurst executive director; and Samantha Kestner, program director.

WHEELING — When three West Liberty University seniors sought opportunities for required internships, they all agreed that Elmhurst, The House of Friendship in Wheeling was their top choice. After several months they are applauding their decision.

Emily Evans, 21, of Morgantown, and Kaitlyn Paree, 21, of Wheeling are social work majors. Wheeling’s Jonathan Droginske, 22, is a health care management major. All three students spend up to four days each week interacting with the residents and staff at the senior assisted living residence in Wheeling’s Pleasant Valley section.

Droginske, a Wheeling Central graduate where he played basketball with WVU’s Chase Harler, is an affable young man who spends a large percentage of his time at Elmhurst shadowing long-time executive director Jamie Crow.

“I observe more than I do hands-on things. I get to see the kinds of things that must be accomplished everyday by a healthcare administrator,” he said.

He occasionally sits at the lobby desk where he is learning how to relate to a variety of people who visit Elmhurst, as well as residents who sign out on their way out of the building.

” I really like the assisted living field and see myself in this area of health care management in the future,” he said.

Crow acknowledges the benefits of hosting interns at Elmhurst.

“I’m very happy to be able to mentor interns, especially from my alma mater where she studied social work. Each of the three students is mature and I’m glad that I am able to introduce them to the field of assisted living and all that it has to offer,” Crow said.

Residents thoroughly enjoy the presence of young adults in the house, Crow said.

“They have encouraged the residents during the winter doldrums by engaging them in a variety of activities that are always filled with laughter and fun,” she said.

Elmhurst also has had interns from Bethany College and Wheeling Jesuit University students frequently participate in weekend games with residents, Crow acknowledged.

A large factor in Jonathan’s decision to look towards a career in the geriatric’s field is due to the close relationship he has had with his grandparents growing up. He admits that what he has learned from having both sets of grandparents in his life, both of which took turns picking him up from school from kindergarten through eighth grade, has been invaluable.

“I’ve learned how to be patient. I’ve taken things from them that I can apply today — manners, being respectful. There’s not a lot of that today,” he said, adding, “I look at the Elmhurst residents through the eyes of my grandparents.”

Each of the students has had one-on-one time with the residents, as well as interacting with them at games, crafts, and other activities on their busy calendar at Elmhurst.

Jonathan usually has lunch with residents in the dining room and has gotten to know several quite well and admits to having a “few favorites.”

Emily said the students are required to find their own internship placements. She and Kaitlyn need 400 hours each before May graduation. They must interview with three agencies and select the one that they feel is the best for them. Elmhurst was the place that is most like the area in which she plans to focus on in her career. Kaitlyn was familiar with Elmhurst as a Wheeling native and nearby resident. She said her grandmother agreed with her decision to intern at Elmhurst because it is where she wants to live someday.

As a student at Trinity High School in Morgantown, Emily volunteered at a nursing home.

“I really liked listening to older adults there and hearing about their experiences.” She also pointed out the value of “finally practicing what we’ve learned. It is so different on paper. Every resident is unique and there is so much to do.”

Kaitlyn agrees, although she plans to work as a hospital social worker. “I like the medical aspect of social work. At Wheeling Park High School I was in medical classes as part of a nursing cluster where we would go to a hospital and interact with the patients. I got a feel for what their needs might be in that setting.”

Each of the interns believes they are enjoying a positive experience at Elmhurst. Kaitlyn points out that residents are eager to share the stories of their lives. Although she may never have been to Elmhurst before her internship, Kaitlyn was familiar with many of the residents because she is a cashier at the Dollar General store on Washington Avenue, an establishment frequented by the residents who enjoy shopping there. Some of them were surprised when she turned up at their house.

Overall, each of the seniors gives Elmhurst an “A” as an internship provider. Jonathan notes, “It has been awesome. The people are great! Ever since day one I have been taken in by the staff. I’ve learned a little of this and that that happens in each department and I have learned so much from Jamie.”

“As our field adviser, Jamie has been very open with us and always asks if we need anything. It is so nice because some other students are struggling and rarely see their field advisers,” Emily notes. Kaitlyn agreed and said, “Everyone is so nice and willing to help you and answer questions.”

The students are required to present a research paper at the university’s Highlands Center following the completion of the internship.

One thing that especially impressed each of the students is the Elmhurst campus and the historic Bloch mansion. Kaitlyn noted, “I like the big house. It feels like a family here.”

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