Summertime is often seen as a time for rest and relaxation. For APPLES Service-Learning interns, this break from the regular hustle and bustle of college was spent contributing to positive change across the state of North Carolina.
Each summer, a cohort of students from various academic disciplines come together to learn about community service and the inner workings of nonprofit organizations in a one-credit hour course, Social Work 492. In addition to their classroom instruction, each student works as a full-time, paid APPLES intern with a service-oriented group or organization in North Carolina.
According to Ana Hoppert, who spent the summer of 2021 serving as a communications intern, one of the biggest appeals of finding an internship through the APPLES program was its dedication to placing students with meaningful community partners. She worked with Ship Community Outreach, a Raleigh-based organization focused on alleviating community issues such as food insecurity, poverty and crime.
Ana shared that, as a newcomer to the town of Chapel Hill, she appreciated the opportunity to work closely with a local nonprofit creating positive change in its own Triangle community.
“Because we’re new to this community, like everyone who moves for college, I think it’s important to recognize that and not take it for granted. Being able to help out organizations that are already here and already know what they’re doing is really valuable.”
During her summer with Ship, Ana’s responsibilities included curating social media content, writing newsletters and blog posts, and helping out with other communication-related tasks.
The Ship project to which Ana contributed most this summer was the growth of Galley Grocery, a subsidized market in Southeast Raleigh that provides low-cost, healthy groceries in an area classified as a food desert. Ship works closely with churches and other organizations to collect food donations and provide shopping vouchers to community members in need.
A large part of Ana’s role consisted of reaching out to and maintaining relationships with other local nonprofits, helping facilitate their collaboration with Ship and contributions to Galley Grocery. She also identified organizations whose audiences could benefit from food vouchers and other Ship programs.
“In a world where we are all so geared to compete in the workforce, it’s really great to see so much collaboration. We’re all working for the betterment of our community,” Ana shared.
According to Ana, working closely with the administration at Ship opened her eyes to how much behind-the-scenes work goes into community service.
“Having volunteered before, I guess I was only aware of half of what it takes to run a nonprofit,” Ana shared. “Working on the administrative side, I saw people constantly in and out of meetings and started to really understand how much of their time is devoted to service––it’s their life.”
Reflecting on her summer experience, Ana has a newfound appreciation for the “integral work that so often goes unseen” in the nonprofit world.
Much like Ana, APPLES intern Jordan Lenz was most appreciative of the opportunity to create positive change within his own community. This summer, he was the only student whose internship was funded by Dr. Jesse White, a retired director of UNC’s Office of Economic and Business Development who encourages young people to pursue public service careers in government.
Working as a legislative intern with the office of North Carolina Senator Valerie Foushee, who represents Orange and Chatham Counties, Jordan had the opportunity to contribute his efforts directly to the community in which he lives and attends college.
“A big part of my role was making sure that I was fully up-to-date with all of the happenings in Chapel Hill, Carrboro, and the rest of Senator Foushee’s district. As an out-of-state student, I’ve really enjoyed that opportunity to strengthen my sense of community and attachment to the area.”
Jordan shared that, while making a new place feel like home takes time, learning from Senator Foushee’s insights as a long-time Triangle resident helped accelerate this process for him.
Throughout the summer, Jordan’s responsibilities ranged from doing deep dives into bills and conducting policy research to updating the senator’s newsletter and responding to her constituents’ emails. He cited Senator Foushee’s support of observational learning as one of his favorite parts of his internship, as he was able to sit in on a variety of committee meetings and discussions within the General Assembly.
Though many students’ internships were fully remote this summer, Jordan was grateful to have completed his role in person. He shared that his ability to make connections with his coworkers and learn their stories was the most rewarding part of his experience.
“Being in person, I got to have a lot of really genuine and authentic conversations with some really fascinating people. Every single person I had a chance to talk with this summer taught me something new through their own experiences.”
Jordan shared that interacting with public officials from diverse backgrounds and career paths was an eye-opening experience, as it shed light on the many opportunities available to him post-grad.
While he identified the slow-moving nature of politics as his greatest challenge during his internship, Jordan shared that the reflection activities built into his APPLES course helped him keep his purpose in mind.
“Structured reflection really allowed me to gain a more genuine sense of how I felt about my experience. If I had a bad day at the General Assembly and came home crabby, but then sat down and wrote it out, I was always reminded of certain positive interactions and parts of the day. It really helped shift my mindset and motivate me.”
After an inspiring summer at the office of Senator Foushee, Jordan looks forward to continuing working with her and the team this fall.