Hello! My Name is Kayla, and I spent the Spring 2022 semester interning for a program here on campus called MOSSAIC. MOSSAIC stands for Mentoring, Organization, and Social Support for Autism/All Inclusion on Campus. My GLI theme is Global and Public health witch blends well with my major in Speech language Pathology. Within my major we learn a lot about how to treat and assess those with autism, so it was important for me to learn about autism in a hands-on experience. There were 9 other mentors in the program and about 12 mentees. The program was created by Dr. Jennifer Closson who created the program for individuals who just needed a place to relax and socialize freely without the judgment of the outside world.
MOSSAIC focuses on supporting those who have autism and those who are neuro diverse on campus. We provided a safe and inclusive space for students to come and relax every Tuesday night during the spring semester. Some of the activities that we planned for the students were things such as craft night, national grilled cheese day, and trivia night. On top of meeting with the group every Tuesday night I was also a peer mentor to a mentee who needed extra support. This included giving them social support, giving them mental health support, helping them with homework, and helping them get things they needed to live day to day.
The MOSSAIC program was also paired with a discussion-based class where the other mentors and I would meet once a week to talk about autism and neurodiversity. For the first half of the semester, we would talk about how it affects the students who have it on campus. The second half of the semester I planned and lead a project on campus that aimed to make spaces on campus more inclusive. My experience leading this project was great for developing my communication skills as that was something that I wanted to strengthen during this out of the classroom experience. During this project I networked with many spaces on campus including the library, the office for student success, and the Branch center. To provide the spaces with what they needed I went around to each space to see the lights and how big each room was. Lights were important because the lights on campus are so bright, and we wanted to provide spaces for neurodiverse students who are light sensitive. At the end of the project, we were able to provide a couple spaces with kits that we created which included light covers, chairs that wiggle, earplugs, and fidgets for all sensory needs. On top of the kits were also able to make QR codes that people could scan to listen to and audio recording about each item in the kit. Providing these items to students who are neurodiverse means that they can go to places on campus that meet their needs, so they have an equal chance of succeeding at school.
My experience with this program has strengthened my skills in leadership. I was able to lead a project that made our campus more inclusive, and I was able to provide support to students that genuinely really needed it. I was able to make connections to our mentees that they had never had before because the system for them is so difficult.
After this experience I have continued to work with MOSSAIC, and I am in an even bigger leadership role now as we are aiming to provide even more kits to spaces on campus. I will also be working with my professor on getting grants to be able to fund the next project that we will be doing.
I am so grateful for this internship and the leadership skills it has taught me.
I was also unable to take any pictures to protect the participants identity.