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!
What was your first summer internship? After my sophomore year of college, I was a legislative intern for Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), in his Washington, D.C. office. Prior to that I had various jobs, mostly in restaurants.
Do you remember what motivated you to apply for a summer internship? How did you apply for it? I was a Government major in college and generally interested in politics. An older cousin of mine knew someone in Lautenberg’s office and referred my resume there. I then completed a phone interview and an in person interview and was accepted into the role.
How did the summer internship benefit you? My time in the Senator’s office opened my eyes to the policy making side of the political process. We took on real issues, often suggested by our constituents, worked to develop commitments among other stakeholders and did the leg work to build a consensus toward legislation we eventually proposed. I also saw the role that lobbyists and money played in DC politics firsthand. Most importantly, I developed relationships with other interns on the Senator’s staff that lasted for years. I also got to live in Washington, D.C. for a summer, which was a lot of fun. Later in my career when I worked for the National Academy Foundation, I felt prepared to navigate Washington policy circles that impacted our work in education. My time in my internship certainly set the table for that.
Did you have a mentor who helped guide or influence your future career plans? I’ve had many mentors along the way, but John and Stephanie Ferrandino stand out. Stephanie was my principal when I began my teaching career at Martin Luther King, Jr. HS in NYC. She hired me, gave me opportunities to grow and develop as an educator, supported my career with leadership opportunities as one of her Assistant Principals and generally showed me the ropes. When I left MLK, I moved to the National Academy Foundation, where John was President at the time. I had a whole new set of growth opportunities in the nonprofit, education reform and policy spaces. My time with NAF allowed me to see education in a national context and understand how to support a network of schools, school leaders and teachers in implementing a particular model of school practice. John created lots of space for me to try new things and to develop my capacity to lead. I wouldn’t be where I am today without their support and guidance along the way!
What advice do you have for students that are currently participating in an internship? Learn from the people around you. The relationships you develop are among the most important benefits of an internship, beyond the day to day exposure and experience you are getting. Connect with colleagues on LinkedIn, ask someone to lunch. They won’t all work out, but you only need a couple for it to be worthwhile.
From your perspective, how does PENCIL benefit students across NYC? PENCIL helps students develop relationships that they might not otherwise have access to. PENCIL students become part of a network that can help create opportunities on the path to college and career success.
What drew you to working at PENCIL? PENCIL was an iconic brand in New York City, growing from its original Principal For A Day® program, through its current partnership and internship programs. The opportunity to help PENCIL continue to pursue its mission and write the next chapter of impact on students, schools and businesses across New York City was truly exciting to me.
What does PENCIL’s mission mean to you? Connecting students to success. We connect by bringing together business and schools on behalf of students. Students are the center of our work. Their success, in college, career and life is ultimately how we make a difference in the world.
Any advice you’d give your younger self? Save more [money] and earlier. It will be there for you later!
What was your first summer internship? I was an intern between sophomore and junior year of college at an economic development nonprofit in my hometown (Salem, NJ).
Do you remember what motivated you to apply for a summer internship? How did you apply for it? My college had a program that allowed you to apply for a stipend to subsidize an unpaid internship. I was familiar with the organization and knew the Executive Director—they had a small staff and normally would not have had an intern, but were happy to have help supporting their additional summer programming.
How did the summer internship benefit you? Prior to this internship, my jobs had been babysitting, being a camp counselor, working at pizza place, and working in my college library’s media service, so it was my first experience working in an office (though there were many activities in the community, too). It was also my first real exposure to non-profits. I was a sociology major and really interested in different kinds of organizations. The internship made me want to work in the nonprofit sector!
Did you have a mentor who helped guide or influence your future career plans? The ED told me about his career (he worked for nonprofits in Brooklyn before relocating with his family to Salem) and the variety that exists across the nonprofit sector (and even in the day-to-day) was really appealing to me.
What advice do you have for students that are currently participating in an internship? Be curious; ask questions! When you think about things you like (or don’t like), try to imagine where those elements might be found in different kinds of careers/workplaces. So many skills translate, so knowing what they are and how they apply in different contexts will help you as you continue to explore.
From your perspective, how does PENCIL benefit students across NYC? PENCIL provides really specific, practical benefits to students. I didn’t have an internship until college, and a lot of the skills students learn in training are things I didn’t really figure out until I was an adult. PENCIL facilitates access to unique and interesting opportunities, and also provides an incredible level of support.
What drew you to working at PENCIL? I’ve always been drawn to how different kinds of organizations/systems work together, which is something that more broadly attracted me to the nonprofit sector. I also wanted to work in education, so PENCIL as an organization that brings together the school and business communities checked all of my boxes.
What does PENCIL’s mission mean to you? The mission puts students and their success first, so for me, it means that my work (in development) is in support of that.
Any advice you’d give your younger self? Network! And pursue opportunities/resources to build a variety of hard and soft skills early. You have plenty of time to figure out a dream job, but it will be easier to get that if you are already equipped with those skills.
PENCIL Summer Intern
What was your first summer internship? My first summer internship was the Data Management Intern position at PENCIL (also my current internship!).
Do you remember what motivated you to apply for a summer internship? How did you apply for it? – I was driven to gain experience in the computer science industry, while expanding my technical skillset and growing my network in the process. I applied to hundreds of positions over LinkedIn, Indeed, Handshake, Angellist, and even PENCIL, Inc. in my pursuit of this goal.
How did the summer internship benefit you? I was able to immerse myself in the full internship experience. I learned the ins and outs of the company and grew acclimated to the company culture. I was able to meet new people and learn how to work with differing personalities and mindsets. I also learned how to impact the company by leveraging my technical skills to write code that made completing projects faster and with great efficiency.
Did you have a mentor who helped guide or influence your future career plans? I’ve been fortunate to have a lot of people in my life that have helped me expand my knowledge of computer science, but one person that was particularly influential was my Peer Mentor, Sam Kotlyar. While helping me acclimate to Stony Brook University in my freshman year, he taught me a lot about what the computer science industry is like, how to get involved within the community, and even helped me out with developing my professional prospects and searching for internships.
What advice do you have for students that are currently participating in an internship? Don’t be afraid to try new things when working on projects! Sometimes a unique solution to a problem may be a better approach than a typical one.
From your perspective, how does PENCIL benefit students across NYC? PENCIL does a great thing by helping hundreds of students gain early exposure to the workforce while they are still in high school and college. This is extremely beneficial because it allows students to build their experience and grow their networks early on in their lives so they can have greater success later on in their careers.
What drew you to working at PENCIL? I always admired PENCIL for their programs that helped students, including myself, prepare for opportunities in the workforce and develop the social skills needed to interact with others in a professional setting. This made me want to give back to the same organization that has helped me grow personally and professionally. When I was emailed about a position regarding their need for someone to assist with their databases, I was ecstatic! Soon after applying for the role, I was hired as one of their interns and I have learned a lot from working with them.
What does PENCIL’s mission mean to you? PENCIL’s mission to connect students to success is important to me because their efforts have helped me personally land my first internship, which has allowed my problem-solving abilities to blossom in the workforce. PENCIL’s aim to bring this same effect of professional prosperity to NYC students is a powerful testament to how committed they are in growing the next generation of workforce professionals.
Any advice you’d give your younger self? Failure is often a better teacher than success! Learn to make mistakes early on and learn well from them so that you can make better choices later on.