EUREKA – Summer internships in Hawaii for two local Eureka College students confirmed the career path for one and has the second rethinking her future.

Justin Dillard of Goodfield, a Sandifer Fellow, interned at Sea Life Park in Waimanalo, about 20 miles east of Honolulu.

Lauren Schwanke of Eureka, a Reagan Fellow, interned at ASSETS School in Honolulu, a school for dyslexic and gifted children. Both were on Oahu for six weeks.

They were among nine Reagan Fellows and six Sandifer Fellows who had internships all over the world last summer.

Dillar, 21, said the “defining moment” in his love of aquatics was when his grandfather took him and his brother fishing on a charter in the Gulf of Mexico when he was 11 or 12.

“Just being out in the ocean and seeing how different everything was because I love to fish, but it’s just completely different down there,” he said. “That just kind of sold me. I love the beach. I love the ocean. Marine life fascinates me. I’ve always loved aquariums.”

Until recently, he volunteered every other Saturday at Shedd Aquarium in Chicago.

A senior at Eureka College, he plans to go to graduate school in Florida or North Carolina, or work at the Nature Conservancy, Shedd Aquarium or Georgia Aquarium.

“Basically a zookeeper at an aquarium if you will,” he described the job.

At Sea Life Park in Hawaii, he worked in the Reef Department touch pool, handling starfish, cucumbers, hermit crabs, and urchins. He would hold up the sea life for children to touch and become acquainted with. By end of his stay he was feeding stingrays.

The summer school at ASSETS School was a try-out for children ages K-12 with special needs to see if they could adapt at the school full time. Schwanke, 21, said they had “lots and lots of different learning disabilities – obstacles to overcome.”

She was put in charge of the children’s entertainment at recess and on afternoon field trips.

Prior to her internship, she planned to be a child-life specialist at a children’s hospital like St. Jude’s, helping kids to work through their hardships.

“It’s your job to ensure that they don’t miss out on their childhood,” she said. “Bring the joy and hope that’s needed in a hospital environment.”

After working in the ASSETS School setting and working with the school counselor, she saw how the counselor helped the children overcome problems in interacting with one another and is now considering becoming a school counselor, which would require graduate school.

“I have some soul searching and things to figure out for my future,” she said.

Her typical day began waking up at 4:45 a.m. to catch a 5:45 bus for a 75-minute ride to make it to work by 7. She was in charge of more than 100 children playing games during recess, making sure rules weren’t broken and teaching them new games.

There were often field trips in the afternoon, which weren’t the typical bus rides through miles of flat corn and bean fields. Instead she got to see breathtaking views of mountains on one side and oceans on the other, while the children would say, “Yeah, we know.”

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