Tabb High School senior Angelina Pearsall didn’t want a summer internship that chained her to a desk. She wants a career in construction, so it’s no surprise she’d rather be outdoors than in.
VersAbility Resources made her its very first Facilities Intern.
“Once she was out in the field, you just saw her light up,” said Vickie Greatwood, VersAbility’s Director of Supported Employment. “She went out to mow the grass and do some landscaping. At the very end of the day, I asked her how it went.”
Pearsall’s responded, “I got dirty!”
“She was very excited to show me her clothes were dirty,” Greatwood recalled. “You could see a whole new person blossoming. We call her ‘Miss VersAbility,’ because she has just jumped right in with so much enthusiasm with everything we have asked her to do.”
Pearsall is part of the nonprofit’s Pre-Employment Transition Services program, which teaches soft and technical skills by offering students paid internships. Students are referred to VersAbility by the Virginia Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services.
“The goal of the program is to give students stackable skills that they can carry with them so that when they graduate high school, they have some tools under their belt for the workforce,” Greatwood said. “We try to help them identify their interests, explore careers and then they have an opportunity to try an internship and earn a paycheck.”
Every day varied for Pearsall. Some days she fiddled with a finicky HVAC system. Other times she broke down tables and chairs. One project involved relocating frogs back to their natural habitat in a creek near VersAbility’s Hampton office.
Pearsall repaired an air compressor. She’s done car maintenance and sanded railings. She assigned employees company cars and gas cards, tracking requests and following up when necessary.
She’s redone mulch and trimmed hedges. Pearsall points to the tidy flower beds outside the main entrance, her work after a morning of weeding.
“I enjoy working with my hands,” she said. “It could be really anything.”
When asked about her favorite day of the internship, Pearsall reflects back on an afternoon when she was outdoors and it began to rain. Instead of racing inside, she listened.
Pearsall heard the rain while being outdoors for the very first time. New hearing aids allowed her to enjoy the patter that a soft rain makes when falling from the sky.
“It was like having my own radio,” she said. “It was fascinating to me — a new sound.”
Pearsall also enjoyed learning about ways to better interact with people with disabilities. She had never thought to crouch when talking with a disabled person in a wheelchair. Rather than having that person continually look up, “it’s important to be on their level so you can be face-to-face,” she said.
Pearsall is excited to graduate from Tabb in 2022 to pursue a future that includes woodworking, pipefitting and brick masonry. She’s grateful for her summer experience, adding, “VersAbility is such a welcoming place.”