Nonprofit Internships: Helping The Community

May 1, 2010  

Jefferson Johnson

As summer closes in it’s time for students to start thinking about what internships are available. Most students will go for internships that align with their area of study, are paid or come with nice perks. However, some students who want to make a difference in a community or try something different consider working for a nonprofit organization.

Although they are usually unpaid, nonprofit internships can teach students more than just volunteer work. One nonprofit strives to help students get more out of interning beyond their field of study.

Project Transformation is a nonprofit Christian organization that provides leadership development internships to college students. PT offers community oriented programs for low-income children and youth across North Texas. With nine summer sites throughout Dallas for various college interns, including SMU, PT has locations in Elm Wood, Pleasant Mound and Oak Cliff. Over 500 students have served as interns in the summer and after-school programs and 66 percent come from Texas.

Mary Ferguson, Oak Cliff site coordinator of PT and former intern, said during the summer internship, reading is the focus of the community program.

“We focus on their [children and youth] reading level improving and their confidence in reading,” Ferguson said.

Ferguson also believes success is gauged with a reading assessment at the beginning of the summer program and again at the end of the program.

“Over the years, PT has seen improvement in grades during the school year and reading levels in the summer,” Ferguson said.

PT has been serving various communities for 12 years. Two SMU directors from Perkins School of Theology are on the board of directors for the nonprofit, organizing many community outreach events and providing a “safe and caring” children and youth after-school and summer program. The children and youth receive over 3,000 hours of one-on-one reading time each year. And the program cultivates bonds between staff and youth and among interns.

The bond instructors make with the children has inspired some to come back, like intern Sarai Gonzalez who currently attends the PCI Health Training Center in Dallas.

“You get to see how it has grown, made a difference and how it reaches out to different communities,” said Gonzales, a returning intern.

Gonzalez, a child of the first year of the PT program, now regularly interns for PT and is majoring in nursing.

“They really encourage us to go to college,” Gonzales said.

As a United Methodist affiliated organization, PT also offers opportunities for people who are thinking about going into ministry or service work, and interns have the option of participating in these components. About 43 former interns have enrolled in seminary and eight currently serve as staff in United Methodist Churches. For the summer, interns receive a $2,500 living stipend distributed twice a month and an education voucher of $1,250.

“Students are not going to get rich working for PT,” said returning intern and Paul Quinn College senior Antwan Habersham. “When students intern for PT it is for the experience and college assistance,” Habersham said.

Habersham has also noticed that by helping the children and youth with their study habits, his have improved too.

“We [interns] have made bonds,” said Sanford-Brown College intern Tasha Wright. “We all treat each other like family.”

The interns and staff all agree that working for a nonprofit is a great way to create an intimate bond with other student interns and build lasting bonds with the children and youth.

“I feel that [PT] has helped me a lot,” Wright said.

Wright said the experience is building her patience for the medical field and teaching her how to be a better listener.

“If you enjoy spending time with kids, you would love the program,” Wright said. “You’ll feel better as an overall person.”

According to Habersham, homework and literacy is the most effective way to help children in the community. Habersham, who has a similar background to the children, said PT is about helping each other out.

“It’s a great opportunity to work with children and feel the love they have to offer,” Ferguson said. “We have over a 100 interns and it’s a great community to serve with.”

“You’ll love the program,” Wright said.

Click here for more information on interning for Project Transformation.

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One Response to “Nonprofit Internships: Helping The Community”

  1. Leslie Sorrell on August 2nd, 2011 2:15 pm

    We are a full service political consulting and fundraising firm looking for several interns for the fall.

    If you have an interest, please e-mail me directly.

    Thank you