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Laurel resident’s internship in Carroll County takes a turn during coronavirus pandemic

Rabiatu Abdul Salam, of Laurel, finished her internship with the Rape Crisis Intervention Service of Carroll County by working online when McDaniel College closed its campus due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Rabiatu Abdul Salam, of Laurel, finished her internship with the Rape Crisis Intervention Service of Carroll County by working online when McDaniel College closed its campus due to the coronavirus pandemic.(HANDOUT)

When Rabiatu Abdul Salam, a junior at McDaniel College, signed up for a nonprofit organization’s writing class, she knew she would gain valuable experience working in the community. What the Laurel resident did not expect was that most of her experience would be spent at home.

“She is a working on a totally different project than when she began,” said Johanna Veader, outreach specialist at Rape Crisis Intervention Service of Carroll County, where Abdul Salam chose to volunteer. “She’s taken a lot of initiative. We are lucky to partner with her.”

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The center has had interns from the college in different capacities throughout the years, Veader said. As an intern with the Rape Crisis Center, Abdul Salam was creating a video showcasing the center and its services. When the coronavirus pandemic shut down the campus and forced classes online, Abdul Salam was no longer allowed to attend the center.

“I had to switch my project around,” Abdul Salam said. “Now, I am working on creating blog posts for them.”

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Abdul Salam became familiar with the Rape Crisis Center during her first year at McDaniel while doing a project for another class.

“I always admired what they did,” Abdul Salam said of the nonprofit’s mission to provide free counseling and support services to victims of sexual violence. “I thought it would be a perfect fit for me.”

Offered for almost a decade, the course strengthens the college’s relationship with the Westminster community and gives students firsthand experience, according to Joshua Ambrose, associate dean of Campus and Community Engagement. Students have also interned at Carroll Lutheran Village, the Boys and Girls Club and the Civil Air Patrol.

“The challenges now have been around helping our nonprofits transition to remote work and run their internships online,” Ambrose said in an email. “Thankfully, they’ve all stepped up to the challenge!”

Rape Crisis Intervention Service still offers its 24-hour hotline and therapists are conducting therapy over the phone. The nonprofit’s popular fundraiser, A Mile in Her Shoes, was held but moved online, with participants sending in videos of their walks and Abdul Salam creating blogs about it.

“There are tons of ways to help with fundraisers,” Abdul Salam said. “A big part has been processing fundraiser ideas to raise money for the programs."

A political science major, Abdul Salam plans to go to law school when she graduates.

“Maybe I’ll start my own nonprofit,” Abdul Salam said. "I like the idea of helping in some way.”

“Rabie is a wonderful student and very passionate about the mission of RCIS,” Ambrose wrote in an email. “She is doing a fine job of emailing/connecting with our partners at the organization and is dedicated to helping them in whatever way she can. She is also a good writer, with wonderful ambitions towards international service in the years to come.”

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