This summer, PENCIL has been sharing blogs about our students and their internship experiences. These blogs include stories from our network and highlight how our students achieved their internship goals, and seized upon summer opportunities which often relate to their academic and career goals. These posts have helped us to learn about their experiences as an intern and their dreams for the future.
This made us look back at our own first internship experiences, what drew us to our work at PENCIL, the advice we have for our younger selves/ current students, and the importance of PENCIL’s mission to connect students to success. We hope you’ll enjoy these throwback posts from our team and stay tuned as we post few more over the next couple of weeks.
If you have a story you would like featured on PENCIL’s blog, please email Jamie at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Vice President and Chief Strategy Officer
What was your first summer internship? My first summer internship was in between sophomore and junior year of college. I was an Everett Public Service Intern at a non-profit organization called Community Resource Exchange which is a capacity building organization serving NYC grassroots non-profits.
Do you remember what motivated you to apply for a summer internship? How did you apply for it? I had spent my summers prior to that one working for a summer camp. I knew it was time to have a summer experience that was more career focused so I began looking for opportunities. I found the Everett Internship Program online. It was one of the only paid opportunities in the public service space and it offered bi-weekly workshops and lectures to get a full immersion in the sector. I remember submitting my resume, writing a short essay and then getting invited for a phone interview. I still remember doing the interview and then getting a call a few weeks later that I had been accepted.
How did the summer internship benefit you? During that summer I had the opportunity to learn from some of the greatest minds in the NYC non-profit field at that time. Fran Barrett, who founded Community Resource Exchange, took the time to tell me what it was like to start a non-profit and what small organizations really need to do in order to succeed. I had a chance to work on real assignments to support dozens of CRE’s grassroots clients. It was there that I truly learned about and developed a lot of organizational development and management and I haven’t looked back since!
Did you have a mentor who helped guide or influence your future career plans? I’ve had many mentors in my life, but at the time I was deciding on early career paths, one in particular was very influential. During college, I had a part time job as a babysitter and the girls’ mom, Melinda Fine, is an incredibly well-respected and accomplished leader in the non-profit field, especially in education, youth development and civic engagement. She really helped me understand and navigate the industry and to this day is still the first person I call when considering my next steps professionally. This all goes to show that you never know where a mentor might come from. If I had only viewed her as the mom of the girls I babysat, I would have missed out on an incredible friend and mentor.
What advice do you have for students that are currently participating in an internship? As you explore your potential career options, find what you love and what you are good at and run as hard as you can in that direction. That’s where you will find success and fulfillment!
From your perspective, how does PENCIL benefit students across NYC? PENCIL offers NYC students access to relationships and opportunities that can truly lead to future success.
What drew you to work at PENCIL? My career has always focused on supporting the voice, value and visibility of young people. Nearly two years ago when I was looking for my next step professionally, I came across the opportunity to join the PENCIL team as the VP of Programs. As a NYC public school graduate and a first generation college graduate, PENCIL’s mission is personally important to me. The opportunity to do what I love and make an impact on my city is something I do not take for granted!
What does PENCIL’s mission mean to you? Connecting students to success means ensuring every young person in this city has the information and opportunity to define a path that fulfills them.
Any advice you’d give your younger self? At the start of my career, I was often the youngest one in a meeting or invited to work on a project. Feeling self-conscious about my age I would often be elusive about how young I really was, finding ways to make myself sound older with cultural references typically used by people 5 or 10 years my senior. If I could give that version of myself any advice I would tell her to own her age and be proud of being the youngest one in the room.
What was your first summer internship? Working at a private kindergarten in Japan.
Do you remember what motivated you to apply for a summer internship? How did you apply for it? I wanted to stay in Japan after finishing my study abroad program and see how it would be working there. I also wanted to gain experience teaching, as I was interested in education. I received funding from my college for a summer internship of my choice, so I applied through my college. I also spoke with the kindergarten about doing an internship there.
How did the summer internship benefit you? My Japanese language skills improved ten-fold and I learned that I prefer working with older students. I also learned the importance of being on time, communicating and clarifying tasks with the employer, as well as how to handle young children. It really showed me that I have the ability to adapt to a new culture and language very quickly, as none of the staff there spoke English.
What advice do you have for students that are currently participating in an internship? Write down exactly what tasks you performed and how they contributed to the growth of the organization or company. It’s all too easy to forget what you did at the internship while you are doing it! Keep in touch with your employer/colleagues as they may be of help to you (or you to them) in the future.
From your perspective, how does PENCIL benefit students across NYC? Not only does PENCIL benefit students in the sense that they gain new experiences and skills to show future employers, but they also have a chance to work with people from different backgrounds or in another area of the city they might never have gone to. One student from the Bronx had never been to his internship site area before and all his friends were also from the Bronx. Now he has connections with fellow interns and colleagues from various places and in various fields. It’s so important to get outside of your own bubble and open up to different opportunities in life.
What drew you to working at PENCIL? Working with students! I’ve been in education for a good while and that sense of fulfillment in helping students achieve growth is something I strive for.
What does PENCIL’s mission mean to you? “Connect students to success,” to me, means that we at PENCIL are a conduit between students and the opportunities that are out there, waiting for them to take. Specifically, we help connect them to future options they might have not known about or had access to previously.
Any advice you’d give your younger self? Be on time! That is, always be 5-10 minutes earlier than needed. Time is money and I’m embarrassed that I didn’t value it more.
Associate Director of Evaluation and Organizational Learning
What was your first summer internship? My first summer internship was with the Government Accountability Office (GAO) in DC. It was during the summer after my 3rd year of college. I had jobs before, but this was the first time I had something that was career-oriented.
Do you remember what motivated you to apply for a summer internship? How did you apply for it? My wife (girlfriend at the time) finished an internship in DC the summer before, so she really sparked the interest. I applied online – there were three phone interviews to assess interest and fit.
How did the summer internship benefit you? It gave me exposure to government bureaucracy. Though not as exciting as the in-your-face politicians you always see; it showed me that there was a place for level-headed data-oriented individuals in government.
Did you have a mentor who helped guide or influence your future career plans? I don’t have a mentor in any formal sense. I have recently discovered the benefits of having someone outside of your employment circle and who knows you personally that can be an objective sounding board for career decisions.
What advice do you have for students that are currently participating in an internship? Stay in touch with the people you meet along the way. Those connections are the real value of an internship.
From your perspective, how does PENCIL benefit students across NYC? PENCIL provides opportunities to connections that students don’t even know exist. It expands the realm of what students can become.
What drew you to working at PENCIL? The organization is creating real opportunities in NYC. I believe the organization has real potential to develop system change and reinvent how students see internships in the future.
What does PENCIL’s mission mean to you? To me, it’s about closing the opportunity gap and addressing inequality.
Any advice you’d give your younger self? Developing and maintaining networks is a muscle, start strengthening it when you’re young so you have a strong network to rely on when you’re old.