"There is a general stereotype of apathy in Baltimore neighborhoods that was completely wiped clean from my outlook after my internship. I was impassioned by the kids who kept coming to learn every day, enthusiastically no less."
Program of Study: Religion and Peace Studies
Internship: St. Francis Neighborhood Center
Location: Reservoir Hill, Baltimore, Maryland
Briefly describe your internship and your responsibilities as an intern.
At St. Francis, my major responsibility was to plan and implement activities for the center’s main program: The Power Project. This youth development program met 4 days a week and had participants from ages five to fourteen. In planning activities, we focused on education, empowerment and enrichment. In the afternoons, the participants would come to the center for three hours. We went on field trips, cleaned up a park and painted a mural. While working at St. Francis, I was also participating in the Walter Sondheim Jr. Maryland Nonprofit Leadership Program. This scholarship, funded by the Shriver Center at UMBC, focused on educating undergrads on the inner-workings of the non-profit industry. Each participant was given a stipend for the summer. Every other Monday, the group would meet for non-profit seminars. We were expected to take the information that we gleaned from the seminars back to our internship sights and apply it. While at the seminars we developed our own non-profits. Though purely hypothetical, at the end of the summer, we pitched our ideas to a group of judges from the Baltimore area.
How did you find your internship?
I found my internship at SFNC at the Walter Sondheim Jr. Maryland Nonprofit Leadership Program website. In the application process for the program, we were given a long list of internship sights that had registered with the Shriver Center.
What resources did you find particularly helpful in your internship search?
I was informed of the leadership program through the Career Development Office here at Goucher and then applied to the program while studying abroad.
Why did you choose your internship? What factored into your search and applying?
I applied to work at St. Francis because I knew I was interested in community and youth development. Reservoir Hill is a depressed neighborhood in Baltimore and there is a lot of non-profits working together to improve quality of life in the region. St. Francis emphasizes a engagement with the community and youth. I wanted to apply what I’ve been studying in Peace Studies in terms of conflict resolution and social justice to real life. I also have had a lot of experience with working with children in the past, and I truly believe that social change can only begin with young people. St. Francis is a well established non-profit, having been a presence in the Reservoir Hill community for almost 50 years. All of these factors really sparked a major interest in me to apply.
What were you most apprehensive about going into your internship?
I was most apprehensive about my relative inexperience and ignorance of the neighborhood. Having never visited Reservoir Hill before my first day of work, I was uncomfortable starting a position of service to the community without knowing about the community itself. These fears were quickly quelled once I arrived at St. Francis. The staff at the center are welcoming and supportive and are truly passionate about the work that they do.
What did you hope to gain from your internship experience?
I hoped to gain more of an interest in the non-profit field as well as establish contacts in the Baltimore non-profit community. I sought to create a interpersonal communication skill set within the workplace. I wanted to educate myself in the field of youth development and community activism. I also just wanted to have fun! All of these desires were fulfilled two fold!
How did your internship experience influence your academic and career interests/goals/plans?
Before I started my internship at St. Francis, I had a hard time marrying my individual interests and passions with what I wanted to do as a career. Although I still do not have a crystal clear idea of what I will do when I graduate in the spring, I do know that I’m interested in community and youth development. These interests are complimented by my studies at Goucher. I have also found that the lessons I took from this summer apply very closely to the theories and concepts I’m learning in my Peace Studies classes.
What were the most challenging aspects of your internship?
The most challenging aspect of my internship was the Power Project itself. It’s hard to motivate kids to study geography on their summer vacation. Also, I have little experience in the field of education (aside from babysitting and substitute teaching). I really had to face my limitations as an educator and work around them. It was my responsibility to devise lesson plans as well as implement them during the program hours. I had to adapt each lesson to the age group, as well. However, as hard as this experience was for me, the skills I learned outweighed the challenge.
What were most rewarding aspects of your internship?
The most rewarding aspect of my internship were the kids and families I was working side by side with. There is a general stereotype of apathy in Baltimore neighborhoods that was completely wiped clean from my outlook after my internship. I was impassioned by the kids who kept coming to learn every day, enthusiastically no less. Also, their mothers, grandmothers and guardians were cheering them on the whole way, supporting the staff as well as each other in the process. We did family enrichment events on the weekends, and one week we cleaned a playground that abuts the St. Francis Center. It took us all day in the heat of August to clean up all the trash, but the sense of accomplishment and community that was fostered from this service project was more than worth it. So was the barbeque we had that night!
How do you feel your internship prepared you for the real world?
I believe that my internship prepared me for the real world in the following ways: first, I was able to solidify my burgeoning interpersonal skills. Answering phones, going door to door to talk to residents, as well as sitting in on mediation sessions with families all aided in these skills. Second, I was able to maintain large and sometimes overwhelming responsibilities, all the while practicing time management skills and meeting deadlines. Third, I was able to regiment myself to the 9-5 work schedule (which actually wasn’t bad!). I had never worked full-time before, but going to work at a job that I loved was in no way a sacrifice! Last, I feel educated in the field of non-profits and aware of what I do and do not want in terms of future employment in that field.
What advice would you give to students to help them make the most of their internship experience?
Keep an open mind. If you are not enjoying the work that you are doing or aren’t challenged by the work you are given, communicate with your site supervisor. It is so important to be vocal about what you are learning (or aren’t learning , as the case may be). Internships sometimes get a bad rap because of the minimum pay and the sometimes mindless tasks afforded to the intern. If you make it clear, to yourself especially, what you want to get out of your internship experience, it will be easier to assess when something isn’t going right. Internships always have the potential to be a highly valuable endeavor.