This summer, we will be sharing the experiences of current and former PENCIL interns around the city. Learn about how these internships are impacting students’ lives, their ideas about future opportunities, and connecting them to success.
First up, meet Salma Elsayed! Finishing up her senior year of high school, she was a 2018 recipient of a special Meringoff Family Foundation scholarship thanks to the generosity of PENCIL supporter, Stephen J. Meringoff. The Meringoff Family Foundation makes hands-on philanthropic investments in nonprofits that are working to level the playing field for young New Yorkers, and this scholarship was awarded to a small group of exceptional PENCIL students, like Salma, to acknowledge their significant academic and extracurricular achievements. As she reflected on her internship last summer with the College Board, she shared some insightful comments on what she gained from the experience and her thoughts for the future. You can read what she has to say about this as well as her winning scholarship essay below. Thank you for sharing, Salma!
Name: Salma Elsayed
Grade: High School Senior
School: Young Women’s Leadership School of Astoria
What are your thoughts for your future career?
I want to pursue a career in education policy and I am considering becoming an education lawyer.
How has PENCIL helped you think about your future opportunities?
Through my internship with PENCIL at the College Board, I learned a lot about the field of education. Since then, I have worked for another education nonprofit and served on the Queens North and Chancellor’s Advisory Council. PENCIL has helped broaden my horizon by helping me gain professional experience at such a young age. My internship last summer has provided me with a lifelong mentor; my supervisor at the College Board wrote a college recommendation letter for me and I remain in contact with her.
When pursuing opportunities now, I am confident reaching out to organizations to ask for internships, writing cover letters, and interviewing. While I am not interning with PENCIL this year, the training sessions I participated in last year helped me obtain an internship at the New York Times this summer.
Read Salma’s winning scholarship essay below:
The room was dead silent. Mrs. Brooks sat behind her desk grading our last spelling tests as Kayleen and I attempted to communicate our frustration at the monotony of the activities that lay in the old, dull green “English” workbook. Humanities had been my favorite class in the fifth grade. The two periods that had once consisted of reading challenging novels, participating in contentious discussions, and writing argumentative essays about hot button issues, had now been reduced to reading one boring passage after another, each written decades before I was born, followed by answering repetitive questions whose answers could be easily located within the passage. I yawned and closed my eyes, silently praying that when I opened them it would be lunch time.
It was my second week at the College Board. I stepped out of the elevator on the 16th floor, stopped by the cafeteria to grab a banana, and headed to my desk, greeting my colleagues on the SpringBoard ELA team along the way. The ELA Content Development Team was in the process of creating workbooks for public high school students in Texas and I was assisting them with two crucial components: gathering hundreds of high quality, colorful images and conducting multiple literature searches to find informational texts, persuasive speeches, definition essays, etc. I did this work with the goal of providing students with engaging ELA workbooks to help them develop critical thinking skills. In only two weeks, I was on track to getting 30 stock images and 10 passages that I had found approved to be published in the high school workbooks.
It was only a few months earlier that I had been sitting across from Jessica Bynoe, Vice President of PENCIL, sharing my interest in interning at an educational nonprofit, not expecting that I would land an internship at one that has had a significant impact on my education. I had been immediately attracted the internship at SpringBoard because of their mission to provide greater educational access to students. This past school year, I have been working with The Center for Educational Equity at Teachers College to teach New York State students about their rights and advocate for increased resources and civic preparation at New York schools. From January, I have been speaking at conferences, facilitating discussions with fellow students, attending meetings with the state education department and visiting underfunded schools. As a low-income student, I have attended low resource elementary schools with decade old workbooks that were neither engaging nor challenging. In high school, however, I was lucky enough to go to a school that provided students with new, challenging workbooks each year. For many of my peers, in Texas and New York, bare classroom shelves with outdated workbooks are all they know. At The College Board, I help create challenging workbooks that will replace the old workbooks that Texas students currently use.
At SpringBoard, all students are front and center of our work. The Texas Edition books contain colorful About the Author blurbs that preface each passage, providing students with context before they dive right into an engaging passage. When assigning a literature search to me, my supervisor Jen asks me to search for passages from diverse authors, so that students from different backgrounds feel represented in their classrooms. The large population of Spanish-speaking students in Texas are not forgotten, and I myself completed a Spanish vocabulary assignment by reviewing audio of Spanish vocab, so that ESL students can both read and listen to cognates of challenging words. My goal is that all students, even those that struggle in English class, will enjoy reading the passages that I found and will find the context from the images helpful in improving their reading and writing skills. Two years from now, millions of students in Texas will receive the SpringBoard ELA workbooks, and hopefully they will be reading them wide awake.
Not only does my supervisor Jen meet with me weekly to reflect on the past week, provide me with feedback, and assign challenging projects to me, but the entire SpringBoard ELA team does so. Different editors assign me projects, always meeting with me beforehand to address any questions I may have about the assignment and providing clarification when need be via Microsoft Teams.
As I reflect on my experience at the College Board these past few weeks, I am struck by the multitude of skills that I have both gained and strengthened. I have quickly learned to always have a notebook and pen on hand and that To-Do lists are the key to completing multiple assignments in one day. In the past few weeks, I have become adept at using Microsoft Teams, Jabber, and Outlook to communicate swiftly with members of my team and members of other departments. While networking once terrified me, I have now initiated multiple conversations with members of other departments – never forgetting the elevator pitch that I drafted in the PENCIL training sessions. I hope to improve my networking skills throughout the next few years in order to open up greater opportunities for myself. Through lunches with my colleagues, conversations on the way to work, and my attendance at the President’s Town Hall, I have gained exposure to the many different departments at The College Board, which I now know has multiple functions and is not just the creator of exams I dread taking. In the next few months, as I apply to colleges I will no longer be Undecided. This summer internship has reaffirmed my desire to pursue a career in educational policy and publishing. Interning at the College Board has been invaluable in helping me realize my career goals. Maybe in a few years from now, when I graduate college, I’ll be sitting in the same desk: 16-018A.