Windbiel gives back with internship

Sydney Mohr, Sports Reporter

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Student-athletes are known for their hard work and dedication on and off the field, but they are students before they are athletes.
This was proven through the work done by Kirsten Windbiel this summer, as she took a summer internship above and beyond expectations and showed the Warrior community she was more than just a athlete.
Windbiel, a Senior who is expected to graduate this December, is a Therapeutic Recreation major in the RTTR (Recreation, Tourism, Theraputic, Recreation) program at Winona State University.
She spent the previous spring semester applying for different internships, hoping she would be able to travel and explore with this experience. Her applications were mainly sent out west to states like Colorado, but, none of those leads went through.
“After, I was kind of handed this position at Hennepin County Medical Center. As much as it wasn’t what I wanted at first, I accepted the position and, I am so grateful that I did,” Windbiel said.
The opportunity was brought to her by her advisor.
“Basically, he told me ‘you’re going to go here, and it may not be the most fun, but you’ll be challenged and, you’ll lift people’s spirits and be able to impact people’s health and wellness,’ and that really resonated with me,” Windbiel said.
Windbiel said the program worked with the outside community to help hook patients up with different resources outside the facility. The staff included many activities for patients in the program including; leisure education, wellness and cooking groups, daily walks and two outings a week that residents were allowed to attend.
“We also had different relaxation groups and recreation groups, trying to teach patients new games and such. It really helped patients bond and be more comfortable with each other,” Windbiel said.
The internship Windbiel was working with was for inpatient psychiatric patients, which ranged from people dealing with bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, depression, suicide and anxiety to name a few. She mentioned how challenging it was, as many patients would talk about extreme situations they have been in, suicide attempts, and other touchy subjects.
“A lot of these patients are in a very vulnerable spot in their life. Many don’t know another life besides the hospital. These patients tend to be at ‘the lowest of the low’ in their lives. It was a cool experience to be able to work with them, but it was also extremely challenging,” Windbiel said. “Sometimes it was easy to connect with patients, other times they just wouldn’t talk to you, which was difficult since socialization is such a big part of life. But, on the flip side, it was incredibly rewarding when patients would come up to the TR staff and tell us how much we’ve impacted them and helped them grow as they’re recovering from whatever ails them.”
Windbiel talked about how much she did not know much about mental health, and how in depth it truly is.
“As someone who hasn’t ever really dealt with mental health issues, I didn’t know how in depth it was and how little it’s talked about. It’s been an interesting transition back to Winona, not constantly talking to people about their mental health all the time.” Windbiel said.
She also stated how we as a society need to bring more importance to mental health.
“We all have the power over our own lives and we can use our gifts and talents to be a light to others. Even though I may not be struggling personally, I want to help be a beacon of hope in other’s lives.” Windbiel said.
The most intense and challenging part of the internship, according to Windbiel, was how much it challenged her faith. She spoke of how she created a strong bond with her intern coordinator, and how he too was a fellow Christian. The two of them would talk about Christianity and how it impacted each other and fellow patients.
“He challenged me in my faith every day, and it only made me grow so much stronger.” Winbiel said.

Along with being a strong presence in the RTTR program and the soccer team, Windbiel is a part of H2O Pleasant Valley church services, works at Home and Community Options INC in downtown Winona, and, is a member of the RTTR club.
In addition, she has also started a small group called Empowered, which is faith-based organization for womens athletes.
After graduation, Windbiel is unsure what she is going to do.
“I might travel, you know, backpack around or, I’m thinking of doing a long-term mission trip for a year or two, of course, looking for a job. I’m just waiting to see where life takes me,” Windbiel said. “It felt as if my prayers were answered. I wanted to be able to share my moving experience that I had this summer, and God answered my prayers with this article.”
The Winona State women’s soccer team kicks off their season this
week with two games starting with a trip to Upper Iowa University Thursday, and ending with a home matchup against the Michigan Technological University on Sunday, September 9 at noon.