When Sydney Abbott, a Psychology major, enrolled at Thomas College, she faced uphill challenges making ends meet. With the College’s help, she tapped into additional scholarship support and created a personal financial plan, then secured a retail job locally. While that opportunity was helpful, she was also able to apply her growing Thomas education to a unique and meaningful internship opportunity at the YWCA in Lewiston, also known as the YW. Now, her passion and skills are aligned with her personal and professional success.
“I had worked there previously for summer camp and loved it,” Sydney reflects. “The Executive Director told me that I could do my internship there, and I was sold. Their mission of eliminating racism and empowering women is incredibly important to me.”
As a social justice intern, Sydney helped to build the roles and responsibilities of the paid position herself, tapping into an issue she cares deeply about. “I really wanted to do social justice work, and I love social-emotional learning with kids,” she notes. She set to work shaping three programs: the Ready Together program, which helps new Maine families grow more comfortable with center-based childcare; an English conversation class held online and in person to help individuals practice English; and her favorite, an anti-bias curriculum that the YW will incorporate into its preschool and school-age programs.
“I know I’m doing something right when I look at the kids we serve,” she reflects. “People need to feel like they have someone on their team, and I can be that person.”
She interacts with children in myriad ways, from visiting with them at breakfast to helping with homework or playing on the playground. Because she works in her hometown, she also gets the gratification of seeing her work in action. “It’s been really nice to see how this work plays out. The YW is definitely a source of light in the Lewiston community.”
Sydney looks forward to continuing her work with the organization this spring, following graduation.
*This story was originally published in the Winter 2021 edition of the Thomas magazine. View the full magazine here.