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Chelsea Mascareno had been a Sunday school teacher for 11 years. She studied sociology and social work at Vanguard University in California. She could recite textbooks, pass exams, and lead a class. In 2018, Mascareno joined a week-long outreach team at COMPACT Family Services, the national child welfare agency of the Assemblies of God based in Arkansas. It changed his life.
One evening, during activities with elementary students at the Hot Springs Center for Foster Children, a young girl ran into Mascareno and started screaming. His voice overflowing with emotion, the child jumped up and down and shouted, “It’s going to be okay!” I’m doing well! I get adopted!
“I never forgot that moment,” Mascareno says. “It shook me. It put everything into perspective. »
Mascareno recently graduated from Vanguard University, the Costa Mesa school affiliated with the AG’s SoCal network, with a degree in sociology and a minor in social work. She says her internship at COMPACT brought his education to life. Now working for a non-profit organization focused on homelessness prevention, Mascareno values the skills developed during his summer internship. She says she learned lessons in empathy that changed her life and equipped her with the skills needed for her career.
While internships were commonplace at COMPACT For years, Administrator Brian J. Page has wanted to do more to serve the foster children living at the facility and deepen their educational experience. The agency ran out of workers to make it happen.
But that is about to change.
Launched this summer, Page, with a team from Vanguard University, is creating a program that applies the skills of college students to provide additional support, energy, and insight to the Arkansas Child Welfare Center. As part of the new and improved student-developed internship program, COMPACT will welcome students from Vanguard and other AG universities to focus on literacy, health and wellness each summer.
Kayli Hillebrand, associate dean of international education and experiential education at Vanguard, says this internship program will open up opportunities for students in many fields of study. She says students majoring in education can pilot a tutoring program to help children learn to read at their age. A kinesiology student could teach children how to exercise properly – an essential life skill often linked to better mental and emotional health.
Page echoes Hillebrand’s vision and hopes to see students from arts, music and ministry backgrounds take an interest in the internship program. It also anticipates that students will find creative ways to make better use of the gymnasiums, library, greenhouse, swimming pool, nature trails, and proximity to a national forest. He says students can significantly help COMPACT extend the reach of his ministry.
“Many children at COMPACT never had a parent read a book to them or demonstrated what love for learning looked like,” Page says. “Imagine the impact of a student being able to spend time with children and introduce them to a hobby or a love of nature. The opportunities are endless.
To make the expanded internship a reality, Vanguard students are working diligently to develop the curriculum and structure for what the summer engagement might look like. Hillebrand views this developmental process as essential to helping students learn planning and execution, as well as other ministry skills.
“It really is a win-win experience for our students,” she says. “Those who design the program learn that they don’t have to leave to be part of advancing the Kingdom mission. That God uses all skills and all who want to is a great lesson to learn at the start of a career.
The internship planning and execution project is far from the first time that these two entities have collaborated. Since 2015, Vanguard University has deployed students and staff to the Arkansas Ministry Center. The annual ministry team helps on campus, carries out projects and looks for ways to show children the love of Jesus. Hillebrand says this collaborative internship program is just another representation of the school’s commitment to the institution’s mission. She says the partnership is a good fit.
“Foster care is the heart of Vanguard, so it is truly our honor to work closely with COMPACTsays Hillebrand.
As Page and his team prepare for this new phase to launch before the summer, they have bathed the process in prayer and await the results of the new program.
“I hope their time on campus will further develop the callings in their lives and the dreams they have,” Page says. I hope it will broaden ideas of what they can do with a degree and give them the opportunity to turn knowledge learned in the classroom into practical experiences. »