Meet a W&L Scholar: Ryan Schwartz ’25 Schwartz hopes to enter the medical field to continue helping people.
Editor’s note: This series will present a conversation with a current W&L scholarship recipient, summer intern or research scholar. W&L’s generous donors have made these funds possible to enhance the university’s learning community.
“This internship gave me the opportunity to work with people from many different backgrounds, both in the clientele and fellow employees. I think I have become more compassionate as a result, and it added to my understanding of how our country can better help and serve its citizens.”
~ Ryan Schwartz ’25
Hometown: Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Summer Program: Summer Internship at the Diversion Hub, a nonprofit organization in Oklahoma City
Major: Undeclared, but considering a biology major and poverty and human capability studies minor
Q: Tell me your W&L story — what first attracted you to the university?
I love this area of the country, which played a role in my decision. I applied to small liberal arts colleges in Virginia and North Carolina, but when I stepped onto this campus, there was something different about here from the rest of the schools. I really felt like I belonged here and knew this was the place for me.
Q: What extracurricular activities are you involved in on campus?
I am on the Contact Committee, and we brought Bob Woodward to campus this year. It was an honor being able to meet him. He is one of the most renowned journalists in the nation, having uncovered the Watergate scandal. He has so much wisdom to share and reinforced for me the importance of hard work and dedication. I am also co-captain of the club tennis team that was started last year, serve as a university ambassador and as treasurer for the Pre-Dental Club. I was also a trip leader for Volunteer Venture this past summer. We took a group of first-year students to Greensboro, North Carolina, where we focused on law and justice. We went to the International Civil Rights Center & Museum and participated in volunteer events, such as organizing goods and supplies like home appliances and diapers for people in need of them.
Q: What is your favorite course this fall?
My Introduction to Music class, where we learn musical terms, listen to music, and discuss it. I have played piano my whole life, so it has been exciting being able to expand my musical knowledge and discover some other music pieces to play. I am currently taking Genetics and Organic Chemistry, so Intro to Music is a very nice break from science related courses.
Q: Describe your internship this past summer.
I worked for the Diversion Hub in Oklahoma City, which is a nonprofit aiming to support people after their involvement with the judicial process and ultimately decrease jail and prison populations over time. Oklahoma has one of the highest incarceration rates per capita in the United States as well as the world. Many people working in the criminal justice system saw that change was needed, and through the help of politicians, voters, and lawyers, the Diversion Hub was founded in June of 2020.
Much of the time, I worked at the front desk, which gave me the opportunity to interact with the clientele. Many of these clients just got out of the criminal justice system and do not have a place to live, proper transportation or access to regular meals. There are many stereotypes associated with those who are just getting out of the incarceration system, but most people were extremely kind and appreciative. I organized the clothing and hygiene closet, which allows us to provide resources our clients may need, and facilitated a large clothing donation. Data entry was also part on my responsibilities, and it was super interesting to see racial demographics in relationship to prison populations versus the overall population in the U.S.
Q: How did your overall internship experience influence you?
One of the challenges I faced was learning how to best interact with people who have mental disorders, intellectual disabilities, or who are dealing with current or past trauma. Working with the clients through anger management classes and lifestyle classes taught me how to communicate with those facing mental health issues and learn about the struggles of integrating back into society.
For example, there was one client who often caused problems and seemed uncooperative. I asked a fellow co-worker about her and why she didn’t seem to appreciate the help we were trying to provide. My colleague pointed out that this woman always wore sunglasses to hide blackened eyes stemming from abuse in her home life. I realized that, more than ever, we should treat everyone with respect and kindness, as there could be so much going on beneath the surface.
This internship gave me the opportunity to work with people from many different backgrounds, both in the clientele and fellow employees. I think I have become more compassionate as a result, and it added to my understanding of how our country can better help and serve its citizens.
After college, I plan to continue my education to pursue a career in the health care field, hopefully working as a doctor or a dentist. I want to spend my time helping people through medicine, and after my internship at the Diversion Hub, I became more aware of the need for medical and dental services in underserved populations. I would love to volunteer at a free clinic to provide these services one day.
I will be forever grateful to the Ernest Williams II & Marjorie O. Williams Internship Endowment for making this experience possible for me. All of the knowledge I gained has allowed me to change as a person. It meant the world to me to assist others in finding the resources and support to successfully rejoin their community.
One of the reasons I chose W&L was because of the wonderful alumni network. The supportive community here assists my fellow students and me in taking part in amazing opportunities that allow us to grow personally. Hopefully I am in a position one day to do the same for students when I am out of college.