2017 was a record-setting year for the Shepherd Higher Education Consortium on Poverty. Under the direction of Internship Director Amy K. DeHart in collaboration with twenty member institutions, SHECP placed 120 students—a twenty percent increase from 2016.
The eight-week program enables students, through the support of their institutions and SHECP, to work within poverty-challenged communities across the country. During the course of their summer experience, students live within cohorts in SHECP-approved housing with other interns who are serving in the same city. In 2017, SHECP placed students from 20 member institutions in 81 agencies across the country. Those agencies included public defenders offices, health clinics, child-centered services, immigrant-focused agencies, and services for the homeless.
For many students, the experience was unmatched in its ability to provide professional development, poverty-related education, and personal growth. One student who worked with Georgia Justice Project in Atlanta, described his internship as “a near perfect match for me.” GJP staff, he explained, were “intentional about putting me in situations that would increase my understanding of the law and poverty. I also felt that I was a valuable addition to GJP’s team, and they kept me busy with meaningful work.”
An intern working at Americana Community Center in Louisville, Kentucky, found the summer experience an invaluable way to better understand the diversity of fields that exist within the educational landscape:
As a future educator, this internship has helped me to see the reform that needs to happen in the education system. For example, I became even more aware of the inequity that plagues our education system in the way that many of these students have been pushed through the system without hesitation, even though they are not where they should be for their grade. Once seeing and knowing what needs to be done for these populations, I have now almost had a change of heart when it comes to my own career path. I have found a purpose and a place where I feel like I am making the biggest difference—serving immigrant, refugee, and economically disadvantaged populations.
Agency partners were equally impressed with the experience, describing SHECP interns as “some of the best-prepared and self-motivated interns we receive.” One agency described their SHECP intern as “a great asset to our organization…a smart articulate young man [with] a bright future ahead of him. He…made the most of his time and leaned into the position.”
Students are eligible to apply for the internship opportunity after completing their college or university’s requirements, usually through an introductory course that focuses on poverty or a poverty-related topic. SHECP Academic Director Stephanie Rolph sees the classroom foundation as critical to community engagement. “Once students have a foundation in the academic presentation of poverty and its complexities,” she states, “they are better prepared to step into an immersive experience where those complexities are laid bare and enhanced. We see that combination as critical to approaching a more holistic understanding of poverty.”
Prior to their placements, students undergo an application review, and interview with their institution and SHECP staff. Once approved, successful applicants interview with supervisors at SHECP-affiliated agencies before the match is finalized. “We seek a match where the student makes a meaningful contribution to the agency’s mission and where the supervisor and mentor develop an opportunity for the student to gain leadership skills and grow professionally,” said DeHart, SHECP Assistant Director and Internship Coordinator.
The Shepherd Consortium currently includes 24 member institutions and is beginning the application process for 2018. Click here to learn more about our partners. Interested in helping support our continued efforts to provide students with these life-changing opportunities? Learn more about how SHECP provides housing and modest stipends to our interns.