News & Stories

Elizabeth Barnett
February 3, 2021

Psych major prepared for dream internship by faculty mentor

As an intern with SOAR Special Needs in Overland Park, Kan., Elizabeth Barnett ’20 helps assist and empower special-needs families in their local and faith communities. Her work focuses on helping churches become more accessible, providing support groups and respite activities for families and hosting disability ministry conferences.

Throughout her time at Berry, Barnett felt called to assist churches with establishing disability ministries but learned that few jobs exist in this area. Her luck changed when she attended a disability ministry conference her senior year and met the founder and executive director of SOAR Special Needs. After she explained her professional goals, he offered her an internship position with the nonprofit.

Barnett attributes her success to Berry mentors like Professor of Psychology Michelle Haney, who also directs Berry’s applied behavior analysis (ABA)/autism program. “She is a major part of why I am at SOAR today,” Barnett says. “Before coming to Berry, I had very little exposure to individuals with disabilities.”

Haney guided Barnett’s psychology coursework and training in ABA, the primary evidence-based treatment for autism spectrum disorder. She also helped Barnett secure internships in special education classrooms and with behavior consulting firms, which exposed her to the everyday barriers that prevent the inclusion of individuals with disabilities.

Haney praises Barnett’s unfaltering commitment: “She is truly a Berry ‘triple threat’ — academically strong, passionate about marginalized people who may not have the voice or platform to advocate for themselves, and she makes a priority of spending time volunteering and engaging in activities to support people and communities that face poverty, discrimination and neglect.”

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