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Sponsored Summers, Illuminating Internships

Posted November 6, 2014 in Focus on Students, News

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By Pema Donyo ’17

More than twenty Claremont McKenna College students embarked on their own Kravis Leadership Institute sponsored internships this summer — spanning new cities from across the country to as far away as Amman, Jordan.

The beginning of my internship started in a white room with thirty other interns, hands clasped on the desks in front of us while we listened to the end of the internship coordinator’s orientation presentation.

“I think that’s it,” she said. “Any last questions?” I didn’t think there was anything to ask at the time. Come in, work on our projects, go to lunch, finish our tasks, leave. Nothing seemed difficult about that.

Little did I know a few questions I would be asking over the next eight weeks would include: Where’s the flagpole? How do I set up an audio-visual meeting over webcam and speaker? What should I do with the personal cell phone number of a CNN reporter if he doesn’t want to be contacted? But then again, there was no way I could have predicted my summer. It was only my first day as a media and communications intern at Save the Children in Washington, D.C. Save the Children is a nonprofit which seeks to provide long-lasting care and improved conditions for children around the world.

Whether it was rushing to set up a booth at a nonprofit conference or assembling a new database of media contacts, my assigned responsibilities encouraged me to step up to a new challenge every day. The internship exposed me to the world of nonprofit research, media outreach, and the bustle of life in D.C.

I’m a girl who’s lived within a five-mile radius all her life. I grew up in Upland, a town only ten minutes away from Claremont. I was dying to spend my first summer away from my hometown. Kravis Leadership Institute’s (KLI) partnered internship with Save the Children in D.C. allowed me to not only gain a new professional experience but travel to a new place. (The partnered internships are internships KLI organizes with nonprofits in advance to be granted to CMC students.)

I seized this opportunity to immerse myself in a professional environment and explore a new city. From organizing my team members on a new research project to navigating my way around the city, I ended up applying leadership to all aspects of my daily routine.

Every summer, KLI funds leadership initiatives by providing financial support to select CMC students engaged in meaningful internships. KLI seeks to provide meaningful experiences by learning and developing students’ leadership skills. Sophomores and juniors are given the opportunity to apply for funding for an international internship, while freshmen, sophomores, and juniors are all eligible to apply for funding for a domestic internship.

Students can apply for an internship with any nonprofit so long as leadership skills are developed during the duration of the internship. One requirement of the internship is the enrollment and completion of the course INT 199. Course requirements involve reading two books regarding leadership and a formal research paper pertaining to leadership and one’s chosen internship.

Over twenty internships received funding this past summer. There are different categories of internships, such as international internships, social sector internships, partnered internships, and ThinkImpact internships.

Dante Toppo ’15, recipient of a partnered internship, worked at INJAZ Al-Arab in Amman, Jordan. INJAZ Al-Arab addresses unemployment by creating work opportunities for youth in Arab countries. As an intern in the business development office, his responsibilities included researching new lines of funding, grant management, and grant reporting. He also had the opportunity to help with business development and marketing strategy. Toppo said, “My supervisor and office-mates were really cool. At the end of each workday we would trade off ‘YouTube DJ Duty’ which basically consisted of trying to make 90’s gangster rap follow funk and Pink Floyd as seamlessly as possible.” Toppo said the internship allowed him to get closer to his professional goals by providing him with “an opportunity to live and work abroad as well as an insight into the way a major International NGO works.” In one word?


Haley Alderete ’15, recipient of an international internship, worked in Singapore as an events and projects intern for the Halogen Foundation, a nonprofit that seeks to enhance the leadership abilities of students and educators. She worked on two major projects over the course of the summer: a Culture Playbook and a character education program. The Culture Playbook, Alderete explained, is a tool to instruct new hires and volunteers about the company culture. After interviewing employees, interns, and volunteers about their time at Halogen, she assembled her findings through a Prezi presentation. Her time at Halogen caused her to realize that “what’s important at the end of the day isn’t a position or even finishing your work but to focus on making an influence, serving a purpose and presenting something that is excellent.” One of her favorite memories from the internship was the volunteer thank you night, where the staff ate dinner, sang songs, and played games together. “[That night] showed me how in the end we’re all working towards the same mission of helping kids and of course having some fun ourselves,” Alderete said.

Iris Liu ’15, recipient of a partnered internship, worked at Fundación Escuela Nueva (FEN), an NGO based in Bogotá, Colombia dedicated to improving the quality and effectiveness of education at the primary school level and beyond. As a communications and social media intern, she focused on minimizing the divide between the Spanish-speaking staff and the English-speaking world. She designed and wrote the 2013 and 2014 Annual Reports and visual models to represent FEN’s goals. Liu shared her memory of watching a World Cup game with her officemates, sharing Coca-Cola and empanadas in a conference room with a small TV screen. On a professional level, Liu said the internship encouraged her interest in global education and “fed the flame I’ve always had to become an influential changemaker—working alongside Executive Director and Founder of FEN Vicky Colbert (2011 Kravis Prize recipient) was an inspiration on its own.”

The KLI sponsored internships not only impacted the lives of those in need, but our lives as interns as well. We gained exposure to new professional environments, immersed ourselves in foreign cultures, and made memories.