Mental Health Association of Northwestern PA

Tom Stumpf, Internship Experience

As a social work student at Gannon, we are required to do a 480 hour internship our senior year, 240 hours per semester. This counts as 12 credits (6 per semester) towards our graduation requirements. I was having trouble finding a place for my internship, so I went to the head of our department who suggested that I check out MHA as well as a few other agencies. MHA was the first one to contact me and schedule an interview. So, after the interview and a meeting with Bill Grove and Rita Wheeler, I began to work at MHA at the end of August and have loved every minute of it.

One of the great things about MHA has been the opportunity to do what ever I want (with in reason, of course). Within the first days of being here, Rita asked me "what do I want to do?" The funny thing was I had no idea. I have never worked with the mental health community and didn't know what anyone needed. This is when we developed the groups that I would run during my internship. The four groups that I have run are:

I have also coordinated and performed three memorial services for deceased MHA members as well as the annual World AIDS Day Service that MHA holds.

Since I have been here at MHA I have had countless opportunities to use my talents and gifts to help others. Two such things that I have been blessed with are my voice and my guitar skills. Once Rita knew that I did both of these she was eager to put them to work. This is how Praise and Worship was started. Coupled with this is my love for God and faith background. He has been a big part of my life, and even though MHA has no official religious affiliation, my interests and love for God have served me well.

I was asked to lead my first memorial service during my fall semester (fall of 2005). I didnít know what to do or have any idea as what would happen. But thanks to God and all those present they were a success. My love of God and religious upbringing also got me involved in the Thursday Spirituality group; a small bible study group. I would not have been able to do any of this at any other agency. For this I am eternally grateful.

Apart from the spiritual side of my internship, I also had a great opportunity to develop myself professionally. I have never done anything with Self-Advocacy before coming to MHA. It sounded interesting so I got the binder, learned the information, and then began teaching the class. It went really well.

Then at the end of the semester, The Department of Public Welfare contacted me to see if I would be willing to run the class for some of their employees. I was very nervous and flattered. I didnít think that I could offer much to professional social workers who had been working in the field for longer than Iíve been in school. But, that didnít matter. The DPW staff were very attentive and very interested in what I had to say. I messed up a few things, but for my first professional to professional presentation, it wasnít bad. I know what I need to work on now to make the experience better for everyone. This will help me greatly in the future as a social worker.

Finally, there was one thing that I could do to give back to MHA for giving me so much experience and such an amazing learning environment. Thanks to a friend of mine who works in Gannon's Information Technologies Services (ITS), we have discovered that Gannon has to donate its old computers to get rid of them. They canít simply be thrown away. So, working together we were able to get 4 "new" computers donated to MHA, complete with monitors, keyboards, mice, and Windows XP. This is quite the upgrade from Windows 98 that some of the computers were running! The computers are part of my saying "thank you for giving me everything you did." I will never forget my experiences at MHA.

Photo History by Tom Stumpf

Thomas Stumpf
Mercyhurst University

April 26, 2006

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