My experience as a LIFT intern | Summer 2015

By LIFT on September 7, 2015

Categories: First Person Perspective, Our Work, Real Stories

When I was looking for an internship last spring, I began my search at Harvard’s Center for Public Interest Career (CPIC) program, where interested Harvard students are placed into ten-week unpaid internship positions and provided a stipend for their work. At that moment, I wasn’t quite sure what I was looking for in an internship. But then I found LIFT.

LIFT immediately jumped out to me for several reasons. First, it’s a non-profit organization that works to solve the problem of economic immobility in the U.S. by meeting and working with community members on the goals that are priorities to them, such as employment, housing, and education. I knew that working for an organization that focuses on poverty and economic mobility, especially right in my own city of DC, could teach me incredible things about the U.S. economic system in a hands-on way that no academic course could provide. Second, the position I was applying for (and would later obtain) was the intern for the CEO’s Office, which meant that not only could I gain knowledge related to my interest in economics, but I could do so while in a professional, office environment. Third, and most important, one day a week I would get to step out of the office and work as an Advocate for LIFT-DC, taking meetings with Members and actually be the one working to help them achieve their goals. This aspect of the internship was something incredibly unique about LIFT, and was the main reason I pursued it above all others.

Working as the CEO Office Intern this summer, I have observed first-hand how a non-profit organization operates. I have created and updated various documents for the Board of Directors, to both assist with the process of conducting a Board Meeting and also to prepare the organization for on-boarding a new Board Member. I have also learned how to navigate new online databases, one which tracks LIFT’s contacts and donors and the other which helps LIFT in seeking out new donors for the organization. I have created meeting preparation documents for our CEO, Kirsten Lodal, which contain basic information, strategy, and goals associated with whomever she is meeting with. Combined, these tasks have made me feel that my work here this summer actually impacted the organization, something that I think is rare for students at their first internship.

At my one-day-a-week Advocate position, I felt even more impactful. I took four meetings each day that I was there, and, in each, worked with Members on tasks like writing resumes, filling out job applications, calling housing services, enrolling in education and training programs, securing basic food and clothing needs, and much more. I met so many wonderful members of the community at this position, all striving to make better lives for themselves and their families. I was shocked by the amount of hardship people faced in their lives, and even more shocked by the amount of positivity and perseverance they maintained while dealing with it. My experience as an Advocate for LIFT opened my eyes to what poverty really means in this country, how difficult it is to overcome, and the truly inspiring people who are up to that challenge.

In this area of non-profit work, I have learned that it’s very easy to get discouraged and frustrated with the confines of the system that you’re dealing with. But you would never know this from looking in on a LIFT office. The environment is consistently positive and inviting; even the physical set-up of the National Office is welcoming, as the layout of the desks is open and encourages people to coordinate with one another consistently. I can’t describe how welcomed I have felt here at LIFT, from my very first day to my very last. I never expected as a summer intern to feel so integrated and accepted into their office community in my ten short weeks, but the environment at LIFT, in both the national office and the regional sites, is truly something special.

I am so lucky that I saw LIFT’s internship posting on the CPIC’s website that day last spring. With all the amazing experiences I’ve had and the inspiring people I’ve met, it is certainly a position I won’t soon forget. I may not have known quite what I was searching for as I was scrolling through that website back in March, but looking back on my internship with LIFT, I know that whatever it was, I found it.

This blog post was written by Jen Walker, an intern at LIFT’s National Office.