Posted on Friday, July 31, 2020
Kiara Tookes-Williams ’21 had a dream.
“All my life, I’ve wanted to work with children who have experienced trauma,” she said. “I wanted to be that person who comforts them and guides them through a painful and confusing time.”
Thanks to supportive professors, caring counselors and inspiring mentors, she is living that dream now as a victim advocate at Children’s Advocacy Center of Troup County.
The journey to that goal began her first year on the Hill when she met her faculty advisor, Dr. Stephanie Thomas, Assistant Professor of Psychological Science.
“She saw something in me and understood my passion,” Kiara said. “She encouraged me to apply for an internship with Twin Cedars’ children’s advocacy program my junior year.”
Working with Dr. Thomas and Jacob Wise, Internship Coordinator and Career Advisor, Kiara earned a place at CAC and quickly made her mark.
John Harrell, assistant program coordinator, said she embraced her work from Day One.
“Kiara definitely was an asset to us during her internship,” he said. “She worked in direct services with our clients, as well as behind the scenes to evaluate our success. In fact, she did so well that we offered her a job.”
In her new role as victim advocate, Kiara is on call during nights and weekends.
“We work 24/7, 365 days a year,” Harrell said. “If she gets a call from the police about a case, she immediately starts making arrangements.”
That includes coordinating a forensic interview, forensic medical exam and counseling for the victim and non-offending caregiver – all held in colorful, child-friendly surroundings. Though Kiara works some “normal” hours, she acts as the point person for service delivery during nontraditional hours. Her role is that of a victim advocate throughout all service delivery.
Harrell has high praise for Wise and the internship program at the college.
“Jacob screens the students very well and sends us interns who really embrace what we do here,” he said. “Our partnership with the college goes back a long time, and we are very appreciative of these fine students.”
Wise said his office emphasizes internships that will provide a well-rounded experience.
“John has been fantastic to work with in creating these opportunities for our students within the Child Advocacy Center,” he said. “One of our goals is for our interns to develop the skills needed to be competitive as job and graduate school candidates, and John is a great partner for us in fulfilling that goal.”
Madison Murphy ’20 began her internship at Twin Cedars this past spring, but the pandemic soon prevented her physical presence at CAC. However, Madison was not going to take “No” for an answer.
“She called me and asked if there was anything she could do remotely,” Harrell said. “I suggested a social media campaign encouraging people to take the online training called Stewards of Children. This curriculum, developed by the Darkness To Light program, teaches individuals how to recognize and react responsibly to signs of child's sexual abuse.”
Using social media, Madison developed and conducted a campaign using “Flip the Switch,” an effort sponsored by Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman. Through this sponsorship, anyone can take Stewards of Children training at no cost.
“I think this training would be beneficial to all members of the community,” Madison said. “Most people have a connection to children, whether that be through work, friends or family. If everyone can be educated about child sexual abuse, the community can join together to fight this horrific issue.”
Kiara agrees that education is a key to stopping child abuse. Although she has her dream job, she isn’t finished. She plans to pursue her master’s in Clinical Mental Health Counseling at LaGrange.
Harrell says she is only one in a long line of exceptional LaGrange students who have worked with his program.
“A few years ago, we had an intern named Daryn Thompson,” Harrell said. “He is absolutely brilliant and driven. After graduating from LaGrange, he entered Vanderbuilt University to pursue a master’s degree in human development counseling.
“Working with students like Daryn and Kiara gives me hope for our future.”
With the health and safety of student-athletes, coaches and staff as their priority, the presidents of the USA South Athletic Conference voted unanimously to postpone all fall sport conference competition until the spring 2021 semester. The sports impacted are football, men’s soccer, women’s soccer, volleyball, men’s cross country and women’s cross country. More information at lagrangepanthers.com.
Because of the postponement of fall sports, move-in dates have been changed to Aug. 18-23. Fall athletes usually return to campus early to attend practices. Those students who have already selected slots for Aug. 21-23 will keep those times. A registration portal soon will be opened for students who need to shift their move-in previously scheduled for Aug. 7-9. Special group move-in arrangements, if approved, will be announced soon.
2 – Michelle Reeves
3 – Linda McMullen
5 – Brandi Cameron
7 – Bethany Harris
8 – Matthew Donnett
10 – Kevin Shirley
12 – Colleena Collins
13 – Stacey Ernstberger
14 – Chris Lee
16 – John Kraus
18 – Devin James
21 – Tammy Rogers
30 – Vickie Evans
As we celebrate the life and legacy of Rep. John Lewis, let’s take a look back at his inspiring 2017 MLK address in Callaway Auditorium.
Settling In: New LaGrange College president discusses first weeks on the job – LaGrange Daily News, July 18, 2020
Category: Service, College, Community, Academics
Keywords: internship counseling child abuse