Winter Term: A Plan to Improve Education for Students
Bridget Smith ’21, an education and politics major, wants to improve the educational experiences of students with special needs. That's why interning at the Monitoring and State Improvement Planning division of the Office of Special Education Program in Oberlin (OSEP) was a great fit.
“This internship allowed me to see first-hand how federal education regulations are enforced at the state level,” says Smith, who started working with the program in June and continued throughout Winter Term. “My family's experience is definitely what inspired me to work in the field. Though I don't know exactly what I want to do in the future, I know that I want to work to improve the lives of students like my brother.”
Smith’s brother, Nolan, has Down syndrome, but because their father is in the special education field, and knew how to be an advocate, Nolan received services needed to succeed in school. However, Smith recognizes that many parents do not have the time, knowledge, or resources to do the same.
By working with the OSEP, Smith was exposed to tasks that ensure that states are meeting federal requirements in regards to services for children with disabilities, from birth to the age of 21. Via Zoom, Smith attended meetings between the department and state officials, helped organize state data relating to meeting Individuals with Disabilities Education Act benchmarks, and helped organize the division's online content.
“By attending department meetings, reading state reports/briefings, and working with my division's policy director, I not only affirmed my interest in education/disability law, but now have experiences that I can connect to my law school coursework, too,” says Smith.
“The number-one lesson I learned from this internship is to always say yes, even if a task that you're offered doesn't seem directly linked to your interests. By taking on tasks from a variety of people in my division, I not only was able to broaden my understanding of the division's work, but also meet staff that I otherwise would not have interacted with.”