Since switching to remote instruction this past March, many of SAGU’s undergraduate students are spending this time isolated in their homes and in their families’ homes to help flatten the curve for COVID-19. However, for some, their jobs and internships working for essential businesses have brought them out of their homes and into the office.
Lana Casper, a senior social work major with a minor in addiction counseling, is one of those students. In the midst of shelter-in-place, Casper has been diligently working on-site as an intern at FirstLook, a sexual health and pregnancy center in Waxahachie.
Before the spread of COVID-19 in Ellis County, Casper was meeting with clients face-to-face. When the shelter-in-place order was put into effect, she jumped into action helping to develop ways for the center to continue providing the center’s classes virtually. She set up a curriculum covering all areas including prenatal, parenting newborns and toddlers, life skills and an anger management class.
“Lana could have gone home (to Conroe), especially with all the classes at SAGU moving online,” said Sharra Aday Poteet, FirstLook director. “She could have said she just didn’t feel comfortable with possible clients being ill. She stood firm and she laid a foundation for what I believe will be a new way of teaching classes at FirstLook.
“She is an exceptional, unassuming young lady,” Poteet said. “I will tell you what I have told her: God is going to use her mightily! I truly believe that. I also believe that Lana will remember where she was during the pandemic of 2020. Hopefully, she will know she served our Lord well. I certainly will remember that.”
SAGU social work instructor and field placement coordinator Lacey Todd also praised Casper’s work.
“Lana has shown great growth through her time at SAGU,” Todd said. “She has excelled in understanding how to empathically connect to others. She uses this skill in her role with MTEN as well as at her current internship. She has a promising career as a social worker.”
In the Q&A below, Casper shares about her experience interning during COVID-19 and her thoughts about her collegiate career at SAGU coming to a unique conclusion during this pandemic.
Q: What led you to SAGU?
A: I had two older siblings that attended SAGU and I wanted a spiritual foundation as I pursued a degree that would lead to a secular field of work.
Q: How has your time at SAGU benefited you in your walk with God?
A: During my time at SAGU, God has opened me up to experience more of Him. I have experienced more of His freedom and His joy while being here. SAGU offers various opportunities for students to encounter God in different ways, such as Dwell, Revive Night, chapel every day and more. At these events, I was able to encounter God but even more than this, I was able to experience God’s presence in my dorm room. I learned here that I don’t have to be somewhere where there is a band to experience God’s presence. I also learned that it can be easy to get caught up in the motions and get caught filling in the checkboxes. It can be easy to use chapel and Bible class as an excuse to not do your own devotional time. This has made me be more intentional about my personal time with God and not getting caught in just filling the checkboxes.
Q: What have you been involved in during your time at SAGU?
A: During my time at SAGU, I was a leader in community outreach for Bridges Safehouse for fall 2019 through spring 2020. I was also involved in MTEN all three years I have been here. In the first two years, I was a team member for the Philippines trip and then for the New Zealand trip. In my third year, fall 2019-spring 2020, I was the leader for the Las Vegas team. I was also the secretary of CUFI for fall 2019-spring 2020.
Q: Have there been any professors that have been a big influence on you during your time here?
A: The two professors that have taught me the most during my time here at SAGU are professor Todd and professor Harp. They have taught me all I know about social work and have allowed the passion for this work to grow inside me.
Q: What has been the highlight of your time at your internship at FirstLook?
A: I have enjoyed being able to lead the parenting classes. Through the classes, I have been able to connect with parents on a daily basis and I have been able to bring encouragement to them during an uncertain time.
Q: Can you share a little about the classes you teach?
A: The classes I teach are from four different sections: the first year, toddlers, parenting and life skills. These classes teach about the development of children, as well as how to parent children through certain situations. The life skills classes cover budgeting, buying a car, credit scores and other beneficial things to know as an adult.
I would have to say, the most beneficial classes I have taken at SAGU that prepared me to teach these parenting classes are social work practice 1 and 2. These classes taught me how to lead group sessions and also helped me learn how to develop a rapport with clients. The lessons I have learned from those two classes, in particular, have allowed me to lead the parenting classes with success.
Q: Did you find it difficult to navigate through your internship and studies in the midst of COVID-19 and the quarantine/shelter-in-place order?
A: Going into quarantine did not affect my daily lifestyle. I was still going to my internship, because it was an essential business, and I had already started the semester with online classes. However, with everyone else going into quarantine and not being on campus it made me unmotivated and has made me miss friends and my family.
Q: What are your plans after graduation? What are you most excited about for the future?
A: My current plans for after graduation is to be a missionary associate for the Chi-Alpha team in Utah. I am most excited to see the different opportunities I will have to learn and grow in ministry. I am excited to see where God takes me.