Flint Study Away Internship Spotlight – Donna McAlpine

July 25, 2023 - Shelly DeJong

Donna holds her id badge up outside of the Catholic Charities buildingName: Donna McAlpine 

Hometown: Walled Lake, MI 

Year/Major: 2nd year, Psychology Major 


What drew you to the field of psychology?

I’m pretty good with my math and sciences, and when I was younger, I attended stuff like “Camp Invention” and whatnot—so for a while, I thought I might become something like an engineer or scientist. The thing is though, I’ve seen a lot of the people around me (myself included) struggle with their mental health, and it’s really made me become interested in seeing how our brains work and how people react and interact with the environment around them. I don’t think I could imagine going into any other field now. 


Can you share about your experience with the Flint Summer Study Away Internship program?  

I really don’t think I can praise this program enough. I chose to go this route because I had an experiential learning requirement for my degree. It’s awesome because they provide free housing, so you don’t have to commute. They host a bunch of different events to get out into the city like historical walking tours, lunches, and other fun activities. Not to mention a lot of the people in the community are very kind and friendly. It's such a great opportunity to make connections and gain experience for your future career.  

This program is awesome because I’m only going into my 2nd year and I’m already getting real-world experience and gaining so much knowledge. You also have the opportunity to apply to many different internship sites so you can find one that suits your goals and aspirations. So, even for those that don’t have such a requirement for their degree, I would still highly recommend this program. It’s such an enriching and eye-opening experience. 


You’re interning with Catholic Charities in Flint. What do they do there and what is your role?

Catholic Charities does everything! Like—I mean everything. For one, they have a community closet where they provide personal needs items such as toothpaste, shampoo, diapers, formula, and toilet paper, as well as clothing and household goods, which are distributed to those in need. They also have a Work Ready Room that provides interview and work apparel, along with resource information for individuals who are job searching. They also act as a mailbox for those who do not have access to a place to receive mail. They have a free laundry and shower room. They provide free medical transportation for children in need, and they have cooling and warming centers available. They have different counseling programs that help children, adolescents, individuals, and families experiencing emotional or mental health issues such as: Depression, Anxiety, Grief and Loss, Divorce, Anger Management, Family Crisis, Domestic Violence, Parenting and Pregnancy, and Substance Use Addiction. They also deal with foster care and adoption. They also have a bunch of other community programs and services—I could go on and on about this but for the sake of it I’ll stop there. 

What I’m doing right now is working on a Back to School Bash event sponsored by the Jockey Being Family Foundation so I’m dealing with the stuff that goes into setting and planning that. Like budgeting, reaching out to other non-profits, and making sure everything gets done. Basically, this event is targeted for foster and adopted children and we’ll be providing backpacks and school supplies to them as well as just making this a fun event with games, activities, food, prizes, etc. 


What do you like most about your internship?

The thing I like most about my internship is the fact that I’m able to observe so much and see a lot of not just what happens upfront—but also a lot of the behind-the-scenes work as well. Seeing the work that goes into being able to provide for the community, and the events and programs that they have is such an interesting thing. Not just that but they work with various populations in the community, it’s not like just children, or just elderly...they literally help everyone. 


Has anything surprised you about your internship so far?

Yes! To be honest, I thought I’d just be observing and slightly assisting with tasks, but the fact that I’m given so much responsibility with the back-to-school event has been pleasantly surprising. 


How has your psych background prepared you for this internship?

My psychology education has helped me understand the psychological principles that influence and affect others’ behavior. It’s really helped me with my critical thinking skills and research abilities. I think just having some background knowledge in the field is the most helpful thing.