Erica, Maguire Fellow in North Texas

Erica is a senior majoring in psychology and sociology in Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences. She was awarded a Maguire and Irby Family Foundation Public Service Fellowship for summer 2014 from the Cary M. Maguire Center for Ethics and Public Responsibility at SMU to intern at ManeGait Therapeutic Horsemanship in McKinney, Texas. Erica plans to focus on fundraising, grants and event planning, while also volunteering in the nonprofit’s lesson program.

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Happy trails!

As school starts back up and my time as a ManeGait intern comes to a close, I can only describe myself as incredibly grateful for the experience I had this summer. I learned so much in the past few months, both inside and outside of the office. I don’t think an internship in any other context or at any other organization could have given me the unique opportunities and knowledge that I was able to gain at ManeGait.

Being able to participate in and see firsthand the inner workings of a nonprofit was a gift I will use for the rest of my career. After taking SMU’s first sociological course on nonprofits, this internship was the best way to put what I learned in the classroom to use in the real world. Although I still have a long way to go and a lot to learn, my time at ManeGait has provided me with invaluable real world experience.

I was drawn to ManeGait because of my love for horses and the personal healing experiences I’ve had with them in my own life. I figured that helping others experience healing through horses would be a good way to give back for all the times horses healed me. I did not realize, however, that being at ManeGait would be just as therapeutic for myself as it is for the riders. If somebody had asked me as a little girl what my ideal job would be, I would have probably described one where I can ride horses every day. By some miracle, that dream came true this summer. Waking up at 5:30 every morning to beat traffic and get out to the barn and ride before work was an amazingly therapeutic way to start my days. As classes start, something tells me that I won’t be popping out of bed for my morning classes quite as enthusiastically as I did all summer!

Working with the riders was by far the most therapeutic aspect of this summer. Going into my internship with relatively little experience interacting with people with disabilities, I could not have predicted how passionate I would become about ManeGait’s program and mission. I found that when I was volunteering in lessons, it was impossible to feel sorry for myself or mope about having a bad day. Despite the unique hardships faced by each rider, the barn and arena are constantly flooded with optimism and happiness from riders, volunteers and staff, and it’s absolutely contagious. The dedication we all share for the riders and horses out at ManeGait pulls us all together into a community that I feel privileged to be a part of.

In case you all read this, thank you so much to everyone at ManeGait who made this summer so educational, fun, and above all meaningful. I know how many of you went out of your way to make me feel welcome and appreciated, and I could not be more thankful. See you all around the ‘Gait!

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