Living Your Values: My Summer at LIFT
This is a blog post dedicated to the people who make LIFT a wonderful place to work. While LIFT’s parent members are at the center of everything we do, I believe it is important to highlight the role that a collaborative, cohesive, and motivated staff play in the success of an organization’s mission. This summer, I was exposed to what one should expect from a work environment and how a strong internal team can achieve powerful external results. It is one thing to have a set of core values; it is quite another to live them out. Every employee at LIFT is guided by five core values: relationships, excellence, equity, diversity, and hope.
This summer, there were three interns in the National Office: myself, the Talent intern, and Amalia and Sydney, the two Development interns. When Sydney and I first arrived, Amalia, who had been working for three weeks prior to our arrival, greeted us by exclaiming, “I’ve been waiting for you guys!” From that moment on, I decided that we were all going to have to be friends. My fellow interns taught me so much this summer. From sorting apples, pears and kale at Academy of Hope’s Mobile Food Market to painting with kids at Educare’s Family Fun Day, my fellow interns knew how to work hard to get a job done, all while having a good time. We loved volunteering together so much that we decided to collaborate on an intern project together to make sure future interns and other LIFTers would have the same opportunities to give back to the communities in which many of our members live. Overall, forming these relationships with Sydney and Amalia, along with the DC and National Office teams, was a highlight of my time at LIFT. Each new relationship made this internship a productive and love-filled experience.
Furthermore, as interns, we were constantly reminded of the value that we offered to LIFT. There is a culture of excellence at LIFT that influences every decision, meeting and project. Innovation and quality programming for members is an expectation, not a goal. Each project that I was assigned had been well thought-out and check-ins were scheduled to ensure that I understood the task. There was never a moment when I felt like my input or questions were not welcomed or appreciated. I truly believe that an organization that holds itself to the highest standard provides the highest level of service to its stakeholders. As interns, we would go from exercising our brains in the upstairs conference room to working the elliptical and treadmills in the downstairs gym – where LIFT Co-founder & CEO Kirsten often joined us. We were constantly encouraged to achieve excellence from staff at every level of the organization.
Sprinkled throughout the summer were “Intern Lunch and Learns,” which are essentially informal lunch meetings with staff across LIFT’s departments. In these meetings, interns were able to ask questions ranging anywhere from staff members’ career paths to insights on authentic and sincere networking (hint: see relationships). To receive exposure and access to a diversity of professional and education backgrounds and experiences, especially as college student trying to figure out what’s next, was incredibly eye-opening and comforting. The most important lesson that I learned was that there is no one way to get somewhere. Whether that “somewhere” be a solution to a problem or a dream job, a winding path is often better than a straight one, because you get to do some sightseeing along the way. From the hiring process to the leadership team’s annual retreat, a commitment to diversity is integrated into everything LIFT does as a way to innovate and ensure that our member’s interests are always represented on the deepest level.
If I had boil down LIFT’s mission into one word it would be equity. Everything that LIFT does has the underlying goal of creating “a more just society on behalf of our members and our broader communities.” Key to creating a more equitable society is first acknowledging, then eliminating, the systemic barriers in place for parents to achieve financial, professional and personal success for the betterment of their families. One way that I experienced LIFT’s dedication to this piece of their mission was through LIFTopolis, which is “a one-of-a-kind interactive simulation that puts participants in the shoes of the hardworking parents and caregivers that LIFT serves across the country.” LIFTopolis helps to expose participants to the inequities present in our society that are either overlooked, misunderstood, or ignored. You can read more about how LIFTopolis is helping to plant seeds of understanding in students and hopefully drive them to join the fight for a more equitable society in this blog post written by my rock-star co-intern, Amalia. In terms of gaining the deepest understanding of an issue possible, I can think of nothing more effective than stepping into someone else’s shoes and walking around in them, if only for 12 minutes.
Our coaches, who maintain the most direct interaction with our members, are extremely dedicated and intelligent individuals who care deeply about the success of the parents with whom they work. During the community service events that I got to attend with members of the DC team, I was afforded the opportunity to watch our parent recruitment process in action. Seeing the way that coaches interacted with parents, making them feel at ease and beginning the process of building a trust relationship with them, was an incredible way to witness LIFT’s mission in action. Every team member at LIFT, from the leadership team to coaches on the frontlines, is dedicated to being a fierce advocate for families, a role that I happily took on this summer and will continue to fill as I return to school this Fall. While I did not exactly discover the solution to systemic and intergenerational poverty this summer, I am walking away from this experience knowing that there are capable, intelligent, and driven people who are working on it every single day, which makes me endlessly hopeful.
When I first got the call from my manager, Haleema, extending an internship offer, I remember being excited to begin working at an organization with such an inspiring mission. Now, I come out of the experience with a new appreciation and dedication to the values of relationships, excellence, equity, diversity, and hope, and I cannot wait to integrate them into my career and life going forward.
This blog post was written by Courtney Marsh, a 2018 summer intern at LIFT’s national office.
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