Michelle Lee GarciaCommunity-Academic Scholar:  Michelle Garcia (she/her)

Project: Michelle worked with fellow scholar Jacqueline Nunez, Professor Megan Burke, Family Matters Parent Training and Information Center, and the Early Intervention Clearinghouse to conduct qualitative and quantitative research about the technology loan program to determine if the program closes inequities in the delivery of early-intervention services via telehealth. Learn more about the project.

Mentor reflection: Professor Burke enjoyed working with Jacqueline and Michelle this summer. "Both have worked hard to support families of children in early intervention. Michelle helped develop materials to address children with speech and language impairments and used her knowledge of the research process to help write the manuscript and collect data," said Professor Burke.

Do you have a personal story or path that led to your interest in this research project?
My interests in this research project stemmed from my stepmother’s job as an interpreter in Early Intervention. I would shadow her at work and see how she and the EI providers worked together to help families with children with developmental delays. I always have enjoyed working with children and families, so when I read that this project was going to be involving that, I was really excited to apply. I believe that my firsthand experiences seeing the transition from in-person services to online served useful in this project as it focuses on the impact of telehealth on EI delivery.

How did participating in this program help you toward your goals?
My participation in this program helped solidify my career goals. Being able to call families and ask them if they need help troubleshooting or need resources sent to them, such as places to call for help, books for their children to continue growing their cognitive skills, and more, has been really fulfilling and I intend to continue similar work in the future. Additionally, seeing the hardships that the Spanish-speaking community had during the COVID-19 pandemic only fortified my passion to work with this particular group in the future.

What advice would you give to future scholars or to those who are interested in applying for the program?
For future scholars thinking about applying, I would recommend just going for it. It can seem intimidating considering the number of applicants and who gets accepted, but if you truly feel passionate about the work you could potentially be doing, take a leap of faith and submit an application. Bring out all the skills you have cultivated during your time at U of I and really put them out on the spotlight. You never really know what can happen! We all have unique talents and experiences that could really prove beneficial to different research projects, so make sure you say everything you want to say in your application. My particular experience of shadowing my stepmom and writing in my application that I experienced the transition of in-person to online services was something that really made my application stand out, so I advise that you include relevant experiences. Best of luck!