Alumni intern remotely at GiGi’s Playhouse

Getting an internship in college can enhance a student’s traditional learning experience, according to Jordan Grino and Aria Warren, two University of Indianapolis alumni who graduated with degrees in exercise science in August, were placed at GiGi’s Playhouse to intern this past summer. Professor of Exercise Science and Internship Coordinator Jill Dempsey assigned internships, and she placed students where she believed they’d succeed, according to Grino.

“[Dempsey] worked like crazy to find places that would accept virtual interns, and since it was so hard to find a place for everyone, she just chose,” Grino said. “She knows all the students pretty well, so she picked based on what she thought they would like.” 

GiGi’s Playhouse is a nonprofit that supports families that have children and adults with Down syndrome, and their mission is to help families network, according to  According to their website, this is achieved through educational programs, social skill development programs, and supplemental programs that help develop fine and gross motor skills. This summer, they were online, and that had new challenges for them, Warren said.

 “It turned out to be all online, and they still had almost all their participants showing up, so it just showed how important GiGi’s is to them,” Warren said. “It is really important for them just learning new skills and getting to be around each other and have fun.” 

Grino said she found numerous ways to implement her exercise science background. She helped with a program called GiGiFIT and created a warm-up routine for them, Grino said.

Warren was involved with GiGi’s kitchen and helped them make food, according to Warren. She helped them make smoothies and gluten-free recipes, Warren said. 

“With the GiGi’s kitchen [program], I used more of our sports nutrition stuff that we do with exercise science… think about the different nutrients and stuff they would need,” Warren said. 

Warren was able to broaden her horizons and help with programs she normally would not have if it weren’t for GiGi’s Playhouse, Warren said. Since everything was fully online, they helped with a plethora of activities. Surprisingly enough, Warren said favorite parts of the internship were not even exercise-science related. 

Warren got to assist in helping GiGi’s put on a virtual theater show. The participants worked on facial expressions and practiced how to interact with each other, Warren said. According to Warren, this helped the participants gain a lot of confidence. 

“The theater program was definitely my favorite, which I was surprised about because I never really have been into theater stuff, but just seeing all the participants gaining confidence in the theater, ” Warren said. “They were so happy to be there, and it impacted all of us.”

According to Grino, her favorite activity was the movie club because she had the opportunity to develop with different activities and discussions to lead with the group. During this time, she got a lot of time to talk and have fun with the participants, Grino said. 

Overall, their experiences with GiGi’s Playhouse were positive, Warren said. Even though it wasn’t quite what they were expecting, they gained an amazing experience. 

“I think it was a really good experience for me to have going into physical therapy because I’m going to work with people of all different ages and everything,” Warren said. “I don’t know where I want to specialize for sure, but I could definitely see myself doing that in the future.”

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