Fulfilling, Empowering Summer

Blog Post: NAC

I am seriously having the best summer ever and as promised I will share a bit about my adventures. I apologize if this post is super long! I tend to write a lot more when I’m super excited!

Earlier this year, I applied for an internship at the National Ability Center in Park City, Utah. The NAC is a nonprofit organization that provides sports and recreation activities for kids and adults of all abilities. Our programs include, cycling, aquatics, water sports, Challenge course (adapted high and low ropes course), rock climbing, archery, winter sports such as skiing and snowboarding and my personal favorite equestrian (adaptive horseback riding). We have many summer camps for kids with all kinds of disabilities where they can participate in all our programs and we also work with groups such as the Wounded Warriors Project.So after submitting a resume and participating in a phone interview, I was told that I had been chosen to be one of the NAC’s Coach Interns. The Coach Internship is specifically for young adults with disabilities and preference is given to applicants with visual impairments. After talking to my supervisor, we were able to create a modified internship experience so I could focus primarily on the NAC’s equestrian program.

So, the directly after moving out of my SPU dorm room, I repacked and hopped on a plane for a three month adventure in the great state of Utah!! I found housing at the last possible second and could not be more happy with my living situation here in Park City. I have the sweetest, most hard working, compassionate and truly beautiful room mate ever. Our apartment is perfect in every way and has everything I needed in a home away from home. It is a ten minute drive to the NAC and is about a mile from a Dial-A-Ride stop which has been my main form of transportation. My lovely momma flew with me when I first got here and I must admit that part of the reasoning behind that decision was because I could use her two free checked bags since we were flying Southwest. It was such a huge blessing to have her here to help me get settled in and organized for the summer. I am eternally grateful for her in every way.

Working in the Barn
Now there is a bit of back story to my connection to the NAC’s equestrian program. The current equestrian program manager was my riding instructor for over six years when I rode at Little Bit Therapeutic Riding Center in Woodinville,, WA. She was the main contributor to the strong riding foundation I received from riding at Little Bit. Not only is she a major role model for me but she is a dear friend of my family’s and is a second mother/big sister/cool aunt figure in my life. In addition, the lead instructor in the equestrian program was also at Little Bit for a time and taught my class many times. She is such a light in the barn and always makes me smile with her wit and positivity. With these two phenomenal women in the barn, the initial anxiety surrounding working in a new place was lessened dramatically. It was like a little piece of home had followed me to UT.

Working in the barn is fulfilling, educational and empowering and I love every second of it. I am able to help in our camps for kids with disabilities and contribute to the general function of lessons/sessions. The equestrian program has three different activities offered. Adaptive riding is designed to teach people of all abilities to successfully ride and learn to control a horse. Hippotherapy is occupational, physical and speech therapy on horseback where the horse is used as a therapy tool and the patient is not learning riding skills. Equine Facilitated Learning is an unmounted activity where a group of horses is in the arena without any equipment and an individual or group learns to use teamwork, communication and problem solving to move the horse. EFL creates an environment where a person’s internal energy and body language is reflected in the behavior of a horse, providing a unique experience of self reflection. I have had the opportunity to work in all of these activities but have to say that hippotherapy is my favorite. It is such an intimate and fun experience to work with great horses and staff while witnessing the joy and progress of the patients. Hippotherapy is the highlight of my week!

Personally, I feel that working in the equestrian program has really enabled me to realize what I am capable of. Too often, I often feel useless in contributing to a project or cause just because the environment is usually not one that can be easily adapted for me to work the same as others. But here at the NAC, working with horses, I am able to recognize that my efforts are actually making a difference. I can create a positive experience for our participants or assist in helping things run smoothly which allows other staff to focus more on their riders. It is an incredibly empowering experience that I didn’t even realize I needed in my own personal and professional development.

In addition to working in the barn, I had the opportunity to be a camp counselor for our overnight camp for teenagers with visual impairments and/or physical disabilities. We participated in many different programs and I even had the opportunity to participate a little as well. I stayed overnight for the week in the NAC lodge. The campers are some of the funnest, most interesting and determined individuals and I am blessed to have shared that week with them. In getting to know them, laughing with them and sharing in their joy we made some pretty awesome memories. I am grateful to call them my friends and know we will stay in touch.

As I near my flight home on September 9, I am trying to soak in every moment here and make as many memories as possible. I definitely miss home but have had such a meaningful and fun summer so far that it will be very sad to leave. I know the relationships I have formed here will last longer than just the summer and I am seriously blessed beyond belief to have had such wonderful people to work with, making this experience that much better. Do you think I could say anymore about how awesome this internship has been??? I think I could but those stories will come later!! I have a sneaking suspicion that I will be back here someday in some capacity. God’s work is being done here and I’m thankful to be apart of it.

For more info about the National Ability Center visit http://www.discovernac.org


About Ali S

Please read more on my About page.
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