August 07, 2006

Reflections on My Summer Internship

My name is Kate Curley and I’m a Youth Innovation Fund board member from Portland, Maine. I am entering my senior year in high school and was thrilled when I found out I was selected as a Lead and Learn Summer Intern. This is the an internship sponsored by the Youth Innovation Fund and the National Service-Learning Partnership where two young people involved in the Youth Fund go to New York for a month and learn about leading an initiative like the Youth Fund at a national level.

Through my work with the Youth Fund, I’ve learned not to stereotype and judge before knowing the whole story. Admittedly, I did have a few preconceived notions about what New York City would be like. I’m happy to say that most of them couldn’t be more wrong. Despite worries from my parents, I didn’t get mugged, harassed, or lost (that much), and though I had my doubts about my ability to make it through an 8-hour day in a cubical, I’ve managed to meet my goals and stay focused, with the help of a little “spontaneous fun” along the way.

As my last day at AED comes to a close, I’ve begun to reflect on what I’ve learned and all I’ve accomplished. I’ve spent most of this month writing a grant proposal to a local foundation in Portland, Maine to create an endowment for the Youth Fund board. This endowment would allow our youth-to-youth grant making initiative sustainable. Our grantmaking has helped hundreds of young people in Portland lead their own service-learning projects in and out of school. These projects all address the root causes of local issues that young people define and address. Two examples of grants Portland has funded are below:

Young people involved in Riverton Park: The Movie, one of YOUTHINK’s first grantees, set out to create a documentary about their experiences living in a subsidized housing complex. By creating the film, presenting it to leaders in the city, and holding community forums, the youth hoped to destroy stereotypes about their neighborhood and the young people living there. After receiving a grant from YOUTHINK to create the documentary, the youth from Riverton Park went on to apply for, and win, a grant from another organization totaling $10,000. Now, instead of youth in Riverton to Park being mentioned in the local paper for violence and drug abuse, they are being recognized as leaders. Because these young people are now engaged in the development of their community, they are likely to deepen their involvement and leadership later on in life.

Similarly, youth involved in Funky Fitness, another YOUTHINK grantee, were concerned that many of their classmates were dropping out of school. The young people realized that one of the causes of this issue was that many students felt uncomfortable in gym class and would skip class. The youth decided to take action. They talked with administrators and teachers and created an alternative gym class to promote life-long fitness. This past summer, Funky Fitness launched a five week pilot program for alternative education students. This fall they will submit their findings to the school board and hopefully be added into their high school’s curriculum next year. By designing and implementing a program that prevents Portland youth from dropping out of school, Funky Fitness is keeping its fellow classmates interested the future of their school and community.

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I had no idea how much goes into writing a grant proposal. After college, I hope to pursue a career in fund development and non-profit management so the skills I’ve learned through this internship will surely help me later on in life. I only wish that more young people were given the chance to have such a rewarding experience as I have had. When my teachers ask the “what have you done this summer?” question on the first day of school, I’m willing to bet I’ll have the most exciting answer.

~Kate Curley, Youth Innovation Fund Board Member, YOUTHINK, Portland, ME

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