The second semester of my junior year abroad in Paris marks the first time I was able to take concrete action towards my future. I started by sending a rather desperate email to my college’s career services office. I explained that I was determined to get an internship this summer, and specified that I would even be willing to move to an entirely new place if it meant finally having the experience of using my time for something meaningful. When the head of career services emailed me back, she told me that if I was looking for something meaningful, I should definitely look into the internships funded by the Redleaf Foundation.
When I read through the list of the funded internships they offered, I was immediately sure that this was what I wanted to do this summer. All of them were outside of New York City (where I normally spend my summers) and in places I had only heard of on TV. Minneapolis stood out to me because it gave me warm memories of watching Beverly Hills, 90210 as I affectionately remembered how the two main characters had moved to Los Angeles from Minneapolis. I did a quick Google Image search and saw rich shades green and blue. I spent the summer before this one staying with my grandparents in New York City feeling utterly useless. I knew I couldn’t spend another summer feeling that way and decided that my first internship should be something that contributed to a greater good.
I chose Way to Grow because their cause resonated with me. My mother is a public school teacher, so the importance of education had been ingrained in me since a very young age. I witnessed all the challenges she faced as an educator as well as all the immense rewards of seeing her students’ progress, forming a lifelong bond with a large number of them. Because of her line of work, I was also made aware of how common it is for students of all ages to feel like the school system is leaving them behind and not taking their varied needs or situations into account. The most beautiful aspect of Way to Grow is how it brings the privilege of individualized education to more isolated families, helping a myriad of children to maximize their potential, essentially guaranteeing them a better future by showing them that they do have the ability to accomplish great things.
Despite being here only a short time, I was overwhelmed by the compassion and dedication shared by every member of the Way to Grow family. Their commitment to providing education as well as stability to these families is incredibly touching. In addition to making sure children from low income families are prepared for kindergarten, Way to Grow also makes sure to educate parents as well, dedicating particular attention to cooking and nutrition, acknowledging a direct link between this and the child’s success. I have already learned so much about the work they do for these families and I am so grateful that I have this opportunity to be involved in such an important cause alongside such wonderful people. I’m confident I will continue to learn and will carry this experience with me for the rest of my life no matter which career I choose.
The Paul and Rhoda Redleaf Summer Internship Fund provides financial support for up to 10 undergraduate students who have secured an internship at specific nonprofits. This program inspires college students to explore careers in community organizing and nonprofit programming. Emily will be working with our Program Directors as well as with our Fund Development and Communications team. Please join us in welcoming Emily to Way to Grow!