Coming Full Circle: Interview with Intern Amanda Nell

A few weeks ago we went to a filming for our 25th Anniversary video. We invited intern Amanda Nell, who herself was adopted through Adoptions Together, to join us and take part in the experience. Afterwards, we spoke to Amanda about the experience and how she came to intern at Adoptions Together.

Amanda (right) and fellow adoptee and future intern Courtney listen to Courtney’s parents talk about their journey to adoption, at the 25th Anniversary video filming.

How did you find out about the filming?

Well, Margo [Devine, Special Events Manager] and Mary [Bergman, Executive Projects Manager] came to me together and asked. My first thought was “Wow, that sounds really cool,”– to hear this family’s first hand story of how they came to adoption, and especially to hear from the child. By the day of the filming the initial excitement had worn off and I was a bit nervous, and I started thinking like ‘what do I wear? Do I smell okay?’

What was the filming like for you?

I was happily surprised that it was a legitimate capturing of the story, because when you think of like a film shoot, it seems more staged and rehearsed. It was really interesting that they got to give their responses in a more off the cuff fashion. One thing that was really interesting was to see the parents give their story of deciding to adopt while Courtney was standing right next to me, and to hear her say “I love this story.”

 What did you enjoy the most?

I really enjoyed talking to Courtney about what it was for her, about what she wanted to share, that she had the freedom to share as much or little as she wanted to. It was great to get to talk to her one-on-one, and then see her parents come in as a couple, to go from learning about their story to seeing them as a family.

Amanda points to her baby photo on the wall at the Calverton office. In another part of the office hangs a photo of Janice, Amanda’s mom, and Amanda’s elder sister as an infant.

That was a pretty emotional day. I’m pretty sure everyone teared up at one point or another.

Yeah! I knew it was going to happen, but I didn’t think it was going to happen so fast. I don’t know if it’s because I was adopted also, but it’s interesting to see firsthand someone else’s story. It was like a different version of my own. It registered differently than my own but in a very positive way. Talking to Courtney, it was like a sense of “I know what you went through,” but it’s so different. It wasn’t hard for me, because it wasn’t my story.

Tell us a bit about your life outside of interning at AT.

I attend Muhlenberg College, and going to be a senior. I don’t know exactly what I want to do after college. My majors are directing for theater and psychology, so I’m thinking that I would like to go into doing drama therapy for kids with disabilities, particularly kids on the autism spectrum.

That’s a really unique career choice—how did you come to that?

In sophomore year I took a class on abnormal psychology and I had to relate a personal interest of mine to something relevant to the class abnormal psych. My girlfriend at the time had worked at a theater for special needs kids, and I became very interested and invested. I always knew I wanted to be an actor, since I was six, and then I wanted to be a director. When I got to college I discovered my interest in psychology and decided to double major, but I didn’t realize that my interest in drama and my interest in psychology could overlap and work together.

What are your plans for after graduation?

I’m going to take a year off and, hopefully, get some experience in field of theater and psychology without having a higher degree. Even though I’m really interested in the topic, I want to get some practical experience to make sure it’s the right fit for me, and if it is, then I’m going to apply for graduate programs. Ideally I’d like to work at a summer camp or after school program for special needs kids, but individual drama therapy is also appealing. I’d like to get more internship experience with both types of programs so I can see if I’m more drawn to one or the other.

Tell us about your family.

My parents are Bill and Cindy Nell, and I grew up in Cheverly, Maryland, just outside of DC. I have a sister named Marika, she’s older than me by 2 years and 2 days. My sister and I are very different. She was always school oriented, doing engineering math and science, and then I was into theater and writing. My sister is getting her MS and PhD, doing research and wants to continue doing that. When we were kids we weren’t besties, but right before she left for college it was really hard for me to adapt to the idea that she wasn’t going to be there. After she started college we got a lot closer.

When Amanda’s sister Marika (left) stopped by, they posed for a photo with Janice. This silly snap perfectly captures Amanda’s character and shows why she was so much fun to have around the office!

Executive Director of Adoptions Together, Janice Goldwater, met Amanda in April and invited her to intern.

Janice: It was so thrilling to see Amanda in April, having worked with her parents from the time they dreamed of being parents, to see them adopt her sister, and then finally when Amanda went home. Knowing her parents, who are awesome, it was just wonderful to see the incredible human being that they had raised. The entire experience was exciting, inspiring, and so validating of the critical importance of the work we do.

What does ‘incredible human being’ mean to you?

Janice: With Amanda, I think that she’s smart, funny, and kind. She’s a very thoughtful young woman, and responsible, with great creativity. One of the things that’s really unique about her is how comfortable she is with herself. It really makes you want to be around her.

Last week was Amanda’s final week as an Adoptions Together intern. She has now returned to her final year at college. During her time with us, not only has Amanda has done an amazing job to help children and families, but she’s been a delight to have around the office. We wish her the best of luck with her future career and hope that her internship experience with Adoptions Together has prepared her for her journey ahead.


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