FELLOWSHIP: Witten Works With Homeless Youth

Photo by Keith Nordstrom
Photo by Keith Nordstrom

NORTON, Mass. - Eighteen Wheaton College student-athletes have earned fellowships this summer through the Filene Center for Academic Advising and Career Services that will enrich their academic experiences. 

The Davis International and Porter Cleveland fellowships are just a few examples of the Wheaton Edge – a promise that every single student will receive financial support for an internship, research position or other experiential learning opportunity by the time they graduate.

Throughout the summer, the athletics department will feature the student-athletes taking part in these fellowships, including a goalkeeper from the women's lacrosse team Molly Witten '18

A psychology major from Bethesda, Md., Witten will intern with Urban Peak, an organization that provides services to homeless young adults in Denver, Colo.

Wheaton Athletics: Tell me a little bit about your fellowship. 

Molly Witten: For my fellowship, I am interning at an organization in Denver, Colorado called Urban Peak which works with homeless youth ages 15-24. This summer I'll be working in the Drop-In Center and as a member of the outreach team. The Drop-In Center provides a safe refuge where youth can get their most basic needs met such as food, showers, laundry, and first aid supplies. As a member of the outreach team, I go out in the streets and meet young people where they are, often looking under bridges and behind dumpsters to find them where they hope to remain unseen. A primary goal is to build healthy, trust filled relationships and help them find a way to get back on track with whatever resources and support they might need. 

WA: What interested you in the fellowship? 

MW: The internship with Urban Peak provides an amazing opportunity to work with young people hands on while being able to explore the city of Denver from a different perspective. I knew that this internship would allow me to get to know all types of kids that have experienced a wide array of trauma and hardships that have led them to where they are now. Being there for the youth on a personal level and being a resource for them in whatever they need was one thing that really drew me to this opportunity.  

WA: What experiences are you hoping to gain from your fellowship? 

MWAt Urban Peak, being able to learn from my coworkers is really valuable, everyone has different styles and its great to be able to be yourself at work and have your own style when interacting with the youth. It's been eye opening learning about people's story and the resiliency of the human spirit to be able to fight through trauma, abuse, abandonment, and mental health issues. 

WA: What are your career aspirations and how will this help you achieve them? 

MW: I hope to work as a therapist for teenagers with emotional and behavioral issues. After Wheaton, I'm interested in spending a few years working at wilderness therapy programs and residential treatment centers. 

This internship at Urban Peak is giving me a lot of experience working hands on with at-risk youth. I am getting a broader understanding of trauma informed care and how all different life paths can lead you to homelessness. 

WA: How will this experience make you a better leader at Wheaton and on your team? 

MW: This experience has taught me how important it is to never assume that you know where someone comes from or what they might be going through beneath the surface. Everyone that you meet has such a different background and approaches every day with a different perspective and it's important to approach people with sensitivity and love. This experience has taught me a lot, but one of the biggest lessons is to never forget how blessed I am to have the support of my family, friends, and community at Wheaton. From these lessons, I think incorporating the importance of patience and understanding of each individual's strengths, weaknesses, and stories on my team will make me a better leader. 

WA: Finally, why do you think these opportunities are beneficial to Wheaton students? 

MW: These opportunities are beneficial to Wheaton Students in that they allow you to get hands on experience in your field and give you an opportunity to explore what you want to do before graduating from Wheaton and can help narrow down your career aspirations.