My Internship Experience at The Door: A Center of Alternatives

As a future law school applicant, internships are crucial for me. Besides helping to enhance my resume, they have allowed me to better understand my passion for public service and juvenile law. My internship experience has exposed me to many different parts of the legal field and field of public service. I have interned for the King’s County District Attorney’s Office, and was fortunate enough to work for a law firm in High School. My most current internship at The Door has so far has stood out the most for the particular knowledge I am gaining on the problems young people face today.

The Door, located in lower Manhattan, provides services for young people that vary from fun after school activities to crisis counseling. As an intake counselor, I conduct interviews with new members. Many of the young people joining The Door have suffered from abuse, neglect, or homelessness. Some come to obtain their G.E.D. or simply to have a place to hang out in the city that is safe and neutral. The position as an intake counselor holds great responsibility. Intake counselors must be knowledgeable of all the services the Door offers. More importantly, they are one of the first people to welcome new members and hear their stories. This means emitting positive energy and fully listening to the young person to asses their needs.

Being an intake counselor has helped me improve on many simple life skills. For me, the most valuable ones are silence and active listening. As an outgoing person, I talk often and sometimes rapidly if I am excited or passionate about a subject. Training emphasized how silence plays an important part in the intake interview; it allows for the young person to feel comfortable talking about themselves and feel they are actually being heard. The information they chose to reveal during intakes is crucial to determining what services would be useful to them at The Door. It was amazing to see how hard it was to practice this silence at first. I always wanted to interject to let the young person know I was listening. However, interruptions of this kind can be substituted instead with a smile or a head nod.

By doing this, the young person is able to talk without feeling pressured to speak and without judgment of what they are revealing. The silence helps with active listening as well. I find that I am able to absorb more information and summarize it clearly. Active silence, as one may synthesize it, has also helped me improve my listening skills overall. I have started to unconsciously remain quiet while speaking with a fellow classmate, allowing them to finish speaking first before offering a reply. Prior to this internship, I simply overlooked these vital skills. I am happy to have learned how significant they are and improve them.

The role as an intake counselor has also exposed me to the many issues young people face today. For example, I was previously unaware of how many young people are homeless in New York City and the true magnitude of the issue. I have also learned that many young people lack a positive influence in their life, to offer support and guide them on a constructive path to continue their education and stay out of trouble. Many of my previous assumptions about young people and their behavior have been refuted and corrected. I am also able to see just how such alternative services, like those at The Door, truly help to rehabilitate a young person and encourage them to reach their full potential, despite their circumstances. It is with such services that we can one day change the lives of many more young people and establish hope, morale, and other positive life changes.

My internship at The Door continues to feed my passion for juvenile law, perhaps with a little twist. I may not be in a court room or preparing an actual case file, but I am learning more about restorative justice and what role I can commit to in the legal system to help expand such effort. The staff here is cordial and enthusiastic about their work. The environment may not be that of a trial setting, but it is just as important for me to see both sides of the legal system. This new perspective has truly expanded my knowledge on young people, and has helped me become a more experienced and skilled undergraduate. I am grateful for this opportunity to be an intake counselor and help youth in need.

More information about The Door can found at www.door.org