Michelle Lehman's Summer Internship at the Queen City Memory Cafe

I found it difficult to locate an internship within the internship locator system at my school, Middlebury College, where I would be making a meaningful impact on an individual's mental health. I spent my winter break emailing around 40 different organizations; of those 40, a few took an interest in me. Pamela Beidler, the Director of Programs and Outreach at the Alzheimer’s Association was able to connect me to Janet Nunziata, the Associate Director at the Center on Aging at the University of Vermont. Janet told me about her involvement with the Queen City Memory Cafe and the potential work that could be done for the program. Here I had found what I was searching for; an opportunity to make direct positive impact I was making to a specific community. I knew very little about memory loss, let alone its impact on the individuals living with dementia, their care partner, and loved ones. The whole field was new to me; however, I was excited to learn.

One of my goals was to create a durable and successful networking foundation for the Memory Cafe. I successfully designed a website and made cafe materials that can be easily accessed and distributed to four populations: general participants, prospective college volunteers, prospective high school volunteers, and prospective program leaders. Furthermore, we connected various professionals with our resources so that they can recommend/promote the cafe among those who live with dementia and their caregivers.

I hope to positively impact people’s mental health on an individual basis through the profession of a psychiatric nurse practitioner. This summer, I was connected to a nurse practitioner who was able to shadow for an entire morning. This experience reinforced my passion for this profession. Furthermore, I envision using the therapeutic power of visual art as a way to address mental health among low-income communities. My experience with the Queen City Memory Cafe has given me the insight on how a small, volunteer based organization is successfully run.

Tomorrow, I start my first day of my junior year at Middlebury College. I am excited to enter into the year with all the skills and I knowledge I acquired over the summer.