My experience as a LIFT intern | Summer 2016
I came across the Harvard’s Center for Public Interest Careers (CPIC) Mindich Summer Fellowship Program during my internship search in the spring of my sophomore year. The program connects students to nonprofit organizations and allows them to explore public service for 10 weeks. It also includes mentorship and a weekly discussion of readings related to service, fellows’ experiences and professional development.
LIFT piqued my interest as I explored the list of Mindich Summer Fellowship Program’s nonprofit partners because of its mission – to help families break the cycle of poverty. I’ve witnessed the debilitating effects of poverty in my community, and felt the stress and pain it can bring in my own life. A summer at LIFT meant being surrounded by individuals who care about people experiencing poverty and about expanding their opportunities. When I wasn’t selected for an internship position in LIFT’s Los Angeles office, Executive Office Manager Erin Ridgeway reached to offer one in LIFT’s national headquarters in Washington, D.C. After reading the description, I decided engaging with various teams at LIFT’s national office, while doing weekly direct service at their site in the District, would be a fantastic chance to see the nonprofit world from two different angles. I wrapped up my sophomore year excited for a summer at LIFT and ready to head to DC.
My first days as a LIFTer were spent at the Perry School Community Service Center, where the LIFT-DC office is located. The member service training emphasized the importance of treating members with dignity, respect and unconditional positive regard. My fellow trainees and I were also instructed on how to search for employment and introduced to the ins and outs of LIFT’s extensive referral network. Immediately I was touched by the team’s palpable dedication to the mission and how warm they were.
The LIFTers at the national office were just as welcoming, and I quickly felt like a part of the office and the nationwide LIFT network. I welcomed the opportunity to engage with the communications, development, finance and operations, program and talent teams – whether it was for an email or larger projects. The bulk of my work was with the communications, development and program teams. I peeked into LIFT’s past seeing how LIFT has grown and shifted while archiving for communications. My research for that team, which included potential partner organizations, coalitions and conferences also offered me a glimpse of into the future of LIFT and anti-poverty work. The development projects I completed familiarized me with industry-wide skills, through work with the donor database and coordinating directly with the Chicago office to identify potential donors. Program tasks associated with LIFT member surveys and interviews highlighted the immense value LIFT places on members’ feedback and how elemental it is in designing impactful program. My time at LIFT headquarters did provide the opportunity to witness and participate in an effective and efficient organization with a lot of heart.
Weekly I returned to the Perry School, helping members overcome barriers and turn their difficulties into opportunity. Taking four meetings a day also quickly revealed the difficulties of doing direct service to me, as well as the possibility of feeling overwhelmed or burning out. Nonetheless, the vibrant LIFTers in the LIFT-DC office showed such passion and their ability to put others before themselves wholeheartedly each day will stay with me. More importantly, that attitude stays with LIFT’s members. After one meeting, a member told me “I had given up on myself before coming to LIFT, but working with you guys…You guys gave me hope. You guys didn’t give up on me, so why should I give up on myself? I’m going to keep trying.”
At LIFT, I found a group of people who not only understand that a scarcity of resources and hopelessness are immensely difficult to face alone. Each LIFTer is also genuinely motivated to do their part to solve these issues, family by family.
This post was written by Jessie Laurore, LIFT’s 2016 Mindich Summer Fellow through Harvard’s Center for Public Interest.
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