Meet the SISGI Interns: Heather Mercer – Fall 2015 Cohort

Heather Mercer

SISGI Group Interns work in project teams connecting their academic and career interests and gain critical thinking skills, the ability to develop original products to address social issues and skills in project management and research.

For nearly 20 years, Heather Mercer has dedicated her time to helping others, specifically those with developmental disabilities. Obtaining her undergraduate degree in Family Studies and Human Development was a great starting point to launch her into the field of social work.  As a case manager, behavioral therapist, direct care provider, volunteer, and advocate, Heather has poured her passion into bringing awareness to the beauty and value of life for all people.  As she completes her last semester as a Master in Social Work Student at the University of Southern California concentrating on Community Organization, Planning and Administration, her assignment as an intern for The SISGI Group has allowed her to discover and develop new strengths.  Upon her completion of her MSW, Heather’s focus is to begin to implement programs on a local and national level, that provide education and support to women with a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome.

In order to get to know Heather better, we asked her some questions:

#1  What is your area of focus as a SISGI intern?

As a SISGI intern my research is centered around women with a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome.  I have worked with people with developmental disabilities for over 15 years but am grateful to have been able to focus my efforts on this specific population during my time at The SISGI Group.

#2  Describe your most interesting or challenging assignment during your internship?

My most interesting assignment during my internship was my #speakup4downs Social Media Blast.  While I have been an active social media user since it’s inception, learning new strategies about how to advocate for and spread awareness about causes I am passionate about was empowering.  This assignment helped me to realize the value of my voice and the capacity I have to make a difference.

#3  What would be your dream job?

My dream job would be to run a support group for women with a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome.  

#4  Name one thing you liked about the SISGI Group intern experience.

The one thing I liked about The SISGI Group intern experience is the variety of learning opportunities I was given.  From writing blogs to writing grants, to creating social media campaigns and presenting at conferences, the diversity in capacity building possibilities really is endless.

#5   What has been your greatest learning experience while interning with the SISGI Group?

My greatest learning experience at The SISGI Group has been broadening my perspective about what social work is all about. While I understood that the field of social work was vast and diverse, I had a limited scope on the various ways one individual can make a difference.  After interning with The SISGI Group I now understand that macro social work is like a ripple effect and has the ability to touch more lives which is my ultimate goal in this field.  

#6   What was one thing that surprised you about working virtually or a virtual internship?

What surprised me the most about working with a virtual internship is the close relationships I developed with Thenera and my fellow colleagues.  The thought of a virtual internship can sound isolating but Thenera does a wonderful job of creating a supportive and engaging community of interns who rally to show each other support and encouragement.  I am confident that the people I have met through this program will be lifelong friends and colleagues.

#7   Name one interesting fact about yourself that you would like to share.

I sang at President Clinton’s inauguration as a child.

#8   How do you plan to use the knowledge in your career that you’ve gained from this internship

The SISGI Group internship equips us with a myriad of skills that are valuable and versatile.  Skills such as grant writing and program development will help me build a strong foundation in which to launch my dream of running support groups for women with a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome.  In addition, my cause marketing skills will support me in not only promoting my programs but in bringing awareness to this important issue as well.




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