Intern Spotlight: Danielle

Danielle Serio’s experience as a REAL LIFE intern opened a window into the daily challenges faced by individuals seeking to reclaim their lives, the determination of those who are called to extend a helping hand, and the unshakable strength of the human spirit. Her direct involvement with the clients and staff of REAL LIFE left an indelible impression on the Randolph-Macon College student that went well beyond fulfilling an academic requirement.

“This organization has opened my eyes to the struggles people face with addiction, incarceration, and homelessness,” she said. “Being able to interview several Lifers and hear their stories – from drug use to homelessness, incarceration and, ultimately, finding redemption at REAL LIFE – was a powerful experience that I will never forget.”

In the course of her work at REAL LIFE, Danielle assisted clients (“Lifers”) with securing benefits, filling out job applications, finding transportation, and obtaining vital documents, tasks that afforded her unique insight into obstacles clients face even after successfully serving out jail sentences, connecting with substance use disorder programs, and/or acquiring stable housing.

“It is hard to focus on recovery when money, employment, and transportation are hard to come by, so I really enjoyed getting to help people with these things,” she said.

The most rewarding aspect of Danielle’s work with REAL LIFE has been the opportunity to interact with the clients it serves. Through her attendance at house meetings, classes, and weekly programs, she developed a deeper understanding of the complex, often cyclical issues that threaten to impede clients’ efforts to become successful, thriving members of the community, such as trauma, socioeconomic barriers, and lack of resources.

“I caught a glimpse into the lives of so many people. I saw what they had gone through and what they were striving to achieve,” she said. “I learned about the more personal struggles that many faced in their childhood and home life that led to addiction and/or involvement with the criminal justice system.”

A student of criminology and psychology with a passion for helping at-risk populations, Danielle is grateful for her experience at REAL LIFE and the “real-life” perspective it has given her, one she says she will carry with her as she completes her education and embarks on her career.

“I can relate what I have observed back to my coursework, but I also have seen just how different real-world experiences can be from what you learn in school,” she said. “This internship solidified my career desires to help people in need get out of a life on the streets and strive for better, healthier lifestyles and relationships. The opportunity for a clean and happy life that REAL LIFE offers people is something to be truly thankful for.”