CURAҪAO, Dutch Caribbean – There are a variety of opportunities for student-athletes in the summers. For one soon-to-be Cal Lutheran senior the decision to trade her golf clubs and chances to work a paid job for an internship working with disabled children and dolphins all summer in the Caribbean was a no-brainer.
A psychology major with an emphasis in Child and Family Development who has aspirations of opening her own facility dedicated to the growth of children with special needs recognized this opportunity as a once-in-a-lifetime chance that was too good for even Jenna Gimbel to pass up.
“It is a voluntary internship, so I am not getting paid for it or college units,” she went on, “But it is just another amazing experience I will be able to put on my resume so that I can hopefully get a job in this field.”
The ultimate visions for her complex someday is complete with equipment for a mini aquarium that would include touch tanks, educational exhibits and therapeutic rooms designed to enhance and enrich the lives of children with disabilities. Additionally, she hopes to have dolphin assisted therapy available as well.
Working in an established environment to all those hopes and dreams is exactly what she has been doing all summer.
Gimbel received the six-week internship with the Curaçao Dolphin Therapy Center (CDTC), on one of the ABC (Aruba, Bonaire, Curaçao) islands, after completing an internship in her home state of Florida during the summer of 2013.
Last year in Panama City Beach, Fl. Gimbel also worked with children who had special needs. One of the most memorable activities of the summer was partaking in wild dolphin encounters with the group because while on those trips, they were all able to swim and snorkel next to the dolphins. Although it is against the law to touch the animals in the wild, the dolphins usually got close to the group to play with everyone.
“It was truly an amazing and holistic healing process for the children,” she remembered. “It was with this internship that I knew in my heart this line of work was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life,” adding, “I want to be a part of the healing process for children.”
With that realization she began researching other facilities and opportunities when she came across the CDTC.
Throughout her 2014 internship she has participated in a plethora of different aspects of the facility, ranging from preparing the fish kitchens and diets for the dolphins, to assisting in setting up the platforms for the dolphin assisted therapy (DAT) sessions and helping with and observing the therapy, which includes sections for speech, physical, emotional, behavioral, hypnotherapy and more.
Additionally, on the weekends she is able to be very hands on in the process of training behaviors with the dolphins, learning about the most effective way to make the therapy beneficial for both the dolphins and the children.
Although many hours have been spent in the water this summer, Gimbel has made time for a round of golf here and there.
“Before I left for the islands I switched golf coaches and we are completely rebuilding my swing,” she shared. “I brought my clubs here and I have worked very hard this summer on my game as well as my professional aspirations and I am excited to get back to Cal Lutheran.”
The valuable experiences that Gimbel has been introduced to this summer are ones she will not soon forget, because when her collegiate playing days come to a close she will use the knowledge that she fostered in the water and around the CDTC this summer to reach her ultimate goal in a profession that she truly loves and is passionate about.