Academics and Research

Psychology student capitalizes on internships, volunteer opportunities for career insight

Kendra Weed watched intently as a mother told her daughter she was pregnant with another little girl.

“It was a really emotional moment because the daughter broke down in tears fearing that her mother would love the new baby more and forget about her,” says Weed, a junior psychology major preparing for a career in the helping professions.

“Afterward, I was able to talk through the experience with the mother,” Weed says. “It’s really empowering to be able to be with these parents through these difficult times to support them and help them.”

In volunteer work and through internships supporting her classroom studies, Weed has had many such experiences. To these, she brings her own life experiences.

Growing up in Colorado Springs, Colo., as an only child with divorced parents, Weed spent much of her time in day care, at school and at her grandparents’ while her mom worked. Ultimately, she ended up living with her grandparents through high school. When she was 8 years old, her father developed epilepsy.

Weed recalls him losing his job and his ability to drive. She also remembers several unsettling scares when ambulances were called because of injuries he suffered during his seizures.

“I do think my childhood had an impact on my career choice,” she says. “I think growing up in a nontraditional family has given me a desire to help others who are struggling. I’ve had firsthand experience — with divorce, financial hardship and a parent with a medical condition — that has allowed me to have empathy for others.”

In high school, she says, she enjoyed psychology and sociology. “That’s when I started doing research into social work, and I felt it matched my personality and values. I liked that the field is oriented in helping in different ways.”

At the University of Denver, she has wasted little time getting experience to see which career option best suits her. She interns at the African Community Center, a nonprofit that helps refugees adjust to life in the United States, and volunteers with Family Tree, another nonprofit that works with homelessness, domestic violence and child abuse.

“I’ve become very interested in family and marital counseling, so I think my experience at Family Tree is definitely more appealing,” she says. “It’s also a lot more hands-on and personal. I like that I get to be someone they can trust and confide in to help them through their struggles and frustrations. I’m especially passionate about the family system and strongly considering family and marital counseling as a future career option.”

She adds she’s particularly glad she chose the University of Denver for her studies. “I really like the exposure to new material each year and the variety of classes. I’ve taken some interesting classes.”

Up next for Weed may be a master’s in counseling. “I think counseling relates more to my passions. I see myself hopefully opening my own private practice doing family and marital counseling.”



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