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Department ofSociology


Sociology Student Changes Lives at Kainos Home and Training Center

REAL Program allows Emma Hmelar ‘20 to teach independent living skills to disabled communities

REAL Program allows Emma Hmelar ‘20 to teach independent living skills to disabled communities

By Thanh Thao Sue Do ‘19
Emma Hmelar '19

Emma Hmelar '19

Can helping someone complete a simple task be a life changer? For Emma Hmelar ‘20, her summer internship helping adults with developmental disabilities is changing their lives — and hers.

When Hmelar began at SCU in 2016, she knew she wanted to study sociology but thought her focus would be criminology. Her summer internship at Kainos Home and Training Center has her rethinking that. The organization, which takes its name from a Greek word meaning “new beginnings,” is dedicated to teaching independent living skills to adults with intellectual, mental, and physical disabilities. As a community connections intern, Hmelar is in charge of helping these adults achieve self-sufficiency through coordinating activities in the community. “It can be something as simple as buying concert tickets for music,” says Hmelar.

While helping her clients make connections and achieve independence, Hmelar, who has always considered her brother with cerebral palsy her inspiration, has learned a good bit about herself. Her work with Kainos has allowed her to fulfill her passion for service and creativity by implementing cooking classes and other opportunities for independence at Kainos.

Her internship emerged through the mentorship of the Department of Sociology’s Dr. Cara Chiaraluce and is underwritten by the College of Arts and Sciences REAL Program. Particularly enticing for students in the College of Arts and Sciences, who are often up against unpaid internships, the REAL Program is a unique educational opportunity that grants students up to $5,000 to work on creative endeavors and ensures financial means are not an obstacle.

After completing her degree, Hmelar hopes to continue her advocacy for public policies that enable people with disabilities to lead more fulfilling lives.


About the REAL Program

The College of Arts and Sciences developed the REAL Program to allow students to discover their interests, gain a rich understanding of a particular field, discern their career goals, and explore future employment fields. We believe financial means should not determine whether or not a student can participate in internships, research, or creative works opportunities. Committed to providing paid experiential learning opportunities for students, the REAL program provides stipends up to $5,000 for undergraduate opportunities lasting up to 10 weeks over the summer. In 2018, its first year, the REAL Program distributed $550,000 to over 125 students.

For more information about the REAL Program, email

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