James Madison University

NEW COLLEGES FORMED A plan to reorganize the College of Integrated Science and Technology into two colleges took effect July 1, 2012. The new colleges are the College of Health and Behavioral Studies and the College of Integrated Science and Engineering.


SW Student Interns in London Helping At-risk Teens

By: Amanda Rivera
Posted: December 9, 2008

PHOTO: London BridgeDuring the Spring 2008 semester, Senior Social Work major Sarah Almanas conquered two feats simultaneously: living in a foreign country and getting through to at-risk adolescents.  Enrolling in the JMU Study Abroad program in London, England, Sarah was able to participate in an internship at the Castlehaven Community Association (CCA).  A charity organization, CCA “aims to inspire and empower people of all ages, cultures and abilities to strive, both mentally and physically to achieve their full potential.”  Assigned to the Senior Youth Inclusion Project (SYIP), the division dedicated to 13 to 19 year old youths, Sarah worked with young people deemed most at risk of truancy, exclusion and/or arrest.  She says, “This section of the organization wants to involve the targeted youth in a variety of activities, to promote social inclusion, increase school attendance and reduce youth offending. In order to meet these goals, the SYIP provides referrals, educational support, leisure activities (both evenings and holidays), and one-to-one advisory and general support sessions.” 

PHOTO: London phone boothsProviding one-to-one support to the youth members of the SYIP, Sarah discovered that she needed to break through several barriers. She says, “A major challenge while working with the at risk adolescents was gaining their respect. The youth I worked with were naturally resistant to authority and so were not willing to listen to the workers.”  These interactions were even more challenging as Sarah found herself naïve to the native tongue.  “I speak ‘American English’ and they speak ‘English English.’ There are many differences in the two and so I would have to ask what they meant by certain words or phrases,” she says.    

Even amidst the difficulties that arose, Sarah relays that the experience proved to supplement her social work studies back at school.  “Experiencing this social work internship allowed me to apply the course concepts I have learned while in the classroom at JMU. Completing an international internship also helped to enhance my cultural competence, which is a major skill…of [the] social work practice,” she states.  Visiting ten different countries during her study abroad semester, Sarah was able to develop a cultural awareness outside the boundaries of England.  She says, “The plays I saw and museums and art galleries I visited all added to the richness of my overall experience… It was eye-opening and exciting.”

PHOTO: Tower of LondonReturning to JMU to finish her studies, Sarah says that she does hope to revisit London in the future; however, with plans for graduate school underway, she faces a busy schedule after her graduation from JMU in May 2009.  While the social work major is still undecided about the population she will concentrate on, Sarah admits that working with the CCA has affected her decision to some degree.  She says, “…completing this internship with at risk adolescents has created some interest in continuing work with such young people and potentially applying what I have experienced in London to work with American youth.”