Class project lands Elon freshman a prime internship

Emily Delaplane figured a video she created for her fall semester global experience course was just for a grade. When her relatives forwarded a link to her YouTube project to colleagues and friends, the Elon University freshman found herself with more than an “A” – and Delaware’s Office of the Child Advocate couldn’t be happier.

A global studies project uploaded to YouTube led to an internship in Delaware this summer for Elon freshman Emily Delaplane.

Delaplane accepted an offer to intern this summer with the OCA, an agency that represents and lobbies on behalf of children involved in court proceedings that affect their lives. She’ll assist with writing timelines, sitting in on court cases, making site visits and attending professional conferences.

“I definitely didn’t think this project would be taking me anywhere,” she said. “It’s not everyday you put something on YouTube and many people see it.”

The internship allows Delaplane to sample a career in an area of academic interest. Though undeclared, the native of Hockessin, Del., is contemplating a major in human service studies. However, it was a fall semester general studies course with professor Tom Arcaro that got her started on the journey to the OCA.

As one of her assignments in GST 110: “The Global Experience,” Delaplane wrote a research paper and produced a short video that compared conditions for orphaned and vulnerable children in the United States, Afghanistan and South Africa. In America, society has moved away from orphanages to a safety net where parentless children are placed in foster homes.

In Afghanistan and South Africa, orphanages are the only resources for such children, she reported.

Delaplane’s uncle volunteers for the Office of the Child Advocate. Upon viewing the YouTube video, he sent the link to M.C. Landis, an attorney who coordinates pro bono work at the agency. Landis described being “blown away” by the video and was soon in touch with Delaplane about the summer internship.

“Most of our interns are interested and passionate about abuse and neglected children, but rarely have I seen something of this nature coming from a freshman,” Landis said in a recent interview. “This is an opportunity to see if this is an area she might be interested in pursuing. It’s great this early in a college career to get this exposure. But it’s a toughie. Working with abused and neglected children, we see some of the most difficult and heart wrenching cases.”

Delaplane’s general studies professor is one person who isn’t surprised by her early success.

“Emily was a very focused and driven student in my class this past fall,” Arcaro said. “My goal for any class is that each student finds a way to make the course material personally relevant, and in Emily’s case, her investment in the material was evident.

“What I hoped that she and all of the others in class learned from this assignment was that Elon students can make an impact in the world from their very first semester on campus.”

For now, Delaplane, an alum of St. Andrew’s School in Delaware, is focused not on the internship but instead on her spring semester courses where she’ll further explore human services and another potential major: mathematics.