Meet the Interns

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SDI is pleased to welcome a new group of interns into our organization.  This cohort began working in January and will complete their practicum at the end of summer 2019. These students learn about our mission, values, and programs, as well as gain first-hand experience working with people with disabilities.

Alix Grant

SDI’s College Outreach intern is Alix Grant, a first-year student at The Brown School at Washington University. She is studying for her masters in Social Work and hopes to work in a clinic or hospital setting after graduation. Alix was connected to SDI through our Career Academy alumni and Chief Financial Officer Brian Chao, who she grew up knowing.

“I want to learn more about the disability community and discover what I can do to bring more awareness to the issues that it is faced with,” Alix tells us. “I hope to develop a program that encourages students with disabilities to be self-advocates and meet their full potential in the workplace.”


Elizabeth Sullivan

Elizabeth Sullivan is helping in the DREAM BIG program, and is a first-year student seeking her Master’s Degree in Social Work at The Brown School at Washington University.  Elizabeth became interested in working with our DREAM BIG students after seeing her two hilarious, compassionate cousins with muscular dystrophy graduate from college. She wants to work as a school social worker after graduation.  About her semester with SDI, Elizabeth said: “I hope to learn about the exciting careers and opportunities that exist for young people in the St. Louis area!”


Natsuki Sasaki

Our second DREAM BIG intern is also a first-year MSW student from the Brown School.  Natsuki Sasaki hopes to learn about marketing, relationship building and management skills. After school, she would like to work in non-profit management for an organization focused on health.

“I’m currently working to create a new non-profit organization that focuses on youth development with my ex-coworkers in Japan,” Natsuki shares. “After my graduation, I want to do strategy planning, program evaluation and marketing in an organization that contributes to making a difference.”

Natsuki’s interest in serving within the disability community developed from a book she read about a Japanese social worker who created a peer-support self-evaluation method for people with mental illness. She then started learning about mental health at her university in Japan. After working as a research assistant in a program that supported employment for individuals with mental disabilities, she worked for more than a year as a job coach for people with a variety of disabilities at an employment support center in Japan.

Natsuki is currently planning workshops in the DREAM BIG program and hopes that students will be motivated to learn more.


Aaron Owens

Aaron Owens is a senior at Fontbonne University and is currently finishing his Bachelor’s degree in social work. After graduation, Aaron plans to work towards getting his Master’s degree and eventually become a LCSW.

Aaron is blind and a graduate of the Fall 2018 Starkloff Career Academy. He says his disability is his motivation to advocate for social justice and social diversity. During his internship, Aaron is helping create a curriculum for a continued education workshop for social workers to enhance their knowledge on the topic of employment.

“I expect to be more informed and more educated on the subject of being disabled in an abled body world,” Aaron says of his time with SDI. ”I think overall, it will make me a better social worker and advocate for my community.”


Samantha Adams

Samantha Adams is a first-year Master of Social Work student at The Brown School at Washington University. She is currently working with Starkloff Career Academy to create a syllabus for continuing education unit workshops along with intern Rose Gelin (below).

Samantha is studying mental health and hopes to be able to do animal-assisted social work after graduation. “It is based off animal-assisted therapy, where a therapy animal, usually a dog, assists in therapy sessions,” she explains of the program. “For example, if an individual is forceful with the dog, the therapist and the individual reflect on the dog’s reaction to the forceful interaction the individual had with the dog.”

Samantha has a good relationship with a family member who has autism and epilepsy, and sees him living an independent lifestyle. She hopes to learn a lot about working with job seekers and the disability community, as well as accomplishing a working syllabus to teach other social workers about working with the disability community.


Rose Gelin

Rose Gelin is the aforementioned first-year Master of Social Work student who also comes to Starkloff from The Brown School at Washington University. Rose and Samantha are working together to develop our CEU workshops. She hopes to work with older adults in a palliative or hospice care setting after graduation.

Living with Type 1 Diabetes and a sleep disorder, Rose feels a connection to the disability community. “I really wanted to learn about what people with disabilities are experiencing in the workplace and what is currently happening to make employers more aware,” she says. “I’m hoping to leave SDI being more aware of people with disabilities. I want to be an advocate for them!”

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