Our Amazing Summer Interns

August 30, 2021

Our Interns are integral to making our day to day summer operations possible at the Ranch! From helping behind the scenes, to leading camp programs, these students devote their whole summer to serving our children and families. Our interns help make our summer so memorable and we are grateful for their energy, enthusiasm, and hard work.  Read on to hear about each of our intern’s experiences with us.

Meet Haley:

One of my favorite groups that I had the pleasure to work with this summer was Casa Marianella. Casa Marianella provides support and housing for displaced immigrants in the Austin area. The group that we worked with through Casa Marianella, was a group of women and children that had recently immigrated to the United States from the Democratic Republic of Congo. Some of these individuals had only been in the United States for as little as two weeks. Many of the children that we were working with had been in refugee camps before coming to the United States. However, despite their circumstances, every child was such a ray of sunshine throughout the entire experience at Candlelight Ranch.

An experience that stuck with me the most from working with this group happened down at the lake. We were able to take the group kayaking, fishing, and swimming. For many of the individuals in the group, this was an event full of firsts. The fish weren’t biting very much that day, so when a little boy named Brenham exclaimed “I got one! I got one!”, the entire group was ecstatic! We even convinced him to kiss the fish goodbye before releasing it back into the water.

After fishing, all of the kids wanted to swim in the lake so Emily and I hopped in the water to allow them to do so. Upon entering the water, we quickly realized it was many of their first times ever swimming in a lake. While in the water with the kids, I was able to hold a little girl and show her how to float on her back in the water for the first time. The look of pure bliss and serenity that came across her face as she allowed herself to trust me and float back into the water is a moment I will never forget. I felt so privileged to be able to witness and experience such a happy moment with these kids and it will remain in my top 10 life experiences for the rest of my life.

Meet Mat:

As a child, I always loved doing things outdoors.  My parents sent me to all kinds of summer outdoor camps starting at an early age. It was then when I started to fall in love with the outdoors and gain appreciation for mother nature. Each year after summer came to an end I wanted to continue to be outdoors and couldn’t bear the thought of waiting another year for camps to come.  That is when I decided to join the Boy Scouts of America and then eventually became an Eagle Scout. After spending most of my childhood outdoors, I knew I was destined to find a career that involved the outdoors in some capacity.

I chose my major in Recreation Administration from all the experiences gained growing up and believe has made me who I am today. My best friend introduced me to Candlelight Ranch and explained to me what a rewarding and fun experience it could be for me. Well, he was not wrong. My two months here at Candlelight Ranch have taught me so many lessons that I will carry through the rest of my life.

Meet Grace:

My name is Grace and I am a fourth-year Texas State University student, currently studying Recreation Administration with a concentration in Therapeutic Recreation. Finding my path to this field began before I even realized or began my college education. I was born with a neuromuscular birth defect called Spina Bifida and growing up, I did not participate in much outdoor recreation due to my lower limb muscle weakness. I found music and vocal performance in my early teenage years and pursued it for the next eight years. As I grew up, I noticed an unhealthy physical lifestyle pattern I had fallen into and realized I needed to change. I found CrossFit at the age of 17 and decided that I would no longer listen to or believe the limitations I had lived through. As I graduated high school, I knew I had an innate desire to help others. I pursued nursing for the first year and a half at Texas State but quickly realized it was not the way I wanted to help. I found recreation therapy and immediately regained those same feelings of hope I had once felt back in high school. I realized it was recreation that helped me through my toughest times. I knew that being a recreation therapist was the calling I had. One in which I could use my own experience, hardships, and triumphs to help others find a new love for recreational activities and improvements in all aspects of their lives.

After obtaining my bachelor’s degree, I will be completing an internship to gain valuable experience and perspective into what it means to be a recreation therapist. I had always planned to work with individuals who live with neuromuscular disorders, injuries, or birth defects such as my own in that I would be able to directly relate to them and aid in finding a new quality of life. This, as impactful as it was for my findings in life, brought me to consider other populations of individuals who may not have a physical disability but those who are sometimes under-considered in health care. Through the time I spent at Candlelight Ranch, I have been exposed to new populations to serve and am considering working with the geriatric population. I hope to bring back memories of childhood, freedom, and life to these individuals to improve the quality of life that they deserve. I am looking towards the future to fulfill my dreams to impact others in the way so many have impacted me.

Meet Nicole:

My name is Nicole Bittner and I attend Texas State University. I am majoring in Therapeutic Recreation and a second-semester Junior! When I was little, I was convinced I would be a veterinarian, but that was not the path for me.  I was a runner in Cross Country for three years, but I hurt my knees and had to go to physical therapy. During this time, I fell in love with physical therapy and I found that to be what I wanted to do, or so I thought.  After talking to my cousin about what I wanted to do and how I have a passion for helping people, her eyes lit up and she told me about Therapeutic Recreation. I decided then, that when one door closes, another one opens. I knew then what I truly wanted to do.

I recently discovered that I wanted to pursue helping children in the Foster Care system with hearing impairments. Candlelight Ranch opened my eyes to that possibility! I choose Candlelight Ranch after hearing about it from my friend and started doing research on my own. I was thrilled to see the diverse populations served, the beauty of the property, and the amazing experiences I could gain.  I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to do my fieldwork at Candlelight Ranch. I have learned so much; not only with how to help children and families of all abilities and needs but allow nature to heal myself as well. I have learned that patience goes a long way and to always lend a helping hand.

Meet Emily:

It was a childhood of summer camps and an outdoorsy family that led me to a degree in Recreation at Texas State University. The idea of healing through recreation led me to a degree in Recreational Therapy. Choosing an internship was easy when I discovered Candlelight Ranch’s mission for individuals to “Learn, Explore, and Heal” through their programming. My initial draw to the organization was the openness to all people no matter their levels of ability and the wide variety of activities in their programming.

Through this internship, I gained much more than I was expecting. This experience not only strengthened my professional confidence and skills but also solidified my love for the outdoors and sharing that love with others. In my pursuit of a career in Wilderness Therapy, I know that I will always draw on the experience, relationships, and memories that were created throughout my time at Candlelight Ranch.