The Shepherd Higher Education Consortium on Poverty (SHECP) opened its summer internship season at the 2019 Frueauff Opening Conference, June 6–8, at Marymount University in Virginia. There, 120 undergraduates, from 24 SHECP member schools, prepared to spend their summers studying poverty while working with nonprofit and government programs that are working to alleviate it.
Since 1998, more than 1,100 interns have completed the internship program. Through August, interns have been assigned to communities across the East Coast, Midwest and South. They will serve in healthcare, education, legal services, and other community organizations. This summer, SHECP also begins a partnership with several nonprofits in Shamokin, Pennsylvania, sending its first cohort there.
Interns connected with SHECP alumni ambassadors, faculty, and staff, over the course of the weekend. There were many sessions to help prepare students for their placements. On Thursday evening, Dr. Brett Morash, SHECP executive director, and Amy DeHart, SHECP internship director, welcomed the interns to a meaningful and rigorous summer of service.
“The breadth and depth of the internships that these college students are embarking on is remarkable. Every one of them is designed to enhance their educational experience and enhance their knowledge. I am confident they will be successful and learn a great deal about the complexities facing those experiencing poverty,” said Morash.
The following day held sessions such as “What is the Right Way to Participate in Change” and “How Do You Locate Yourself within the SHECP Experience?” These sessions were led by Dr. Stephanie Rolph, SHECP academic director, as well as Renee Wells, director of education for equity and inclusion at Middlebury College, and a panel of SHECP ambassadors.
The energy of the weekend was one of both excitement and nervousness that comes with new beginnings. The body of interns arrived possessing a wide range of backgrounds, educational experiences, and vocational interests. Some SHECP interns had just completed freshman year. Others were rising seniors. Some participants at the conference were the furthest away from home they had ever been.
Interns in the program share vocational aspirations for service. Frequently, SHECP interns use the summer as an opportunity to gain clarity about one’s vocation. Very few conclude the summer unchanged in some meaningful way.
Khristen Carter, of Berea College, will be working at PACT Baltimore, a therapeutic nursery for low-income children with disabilities. Carter has a desire to pursue a career serving others but is unsure of direction.
The SHECP internship “is a good way for me to determine what I want to do when I get older because I have lots of different careers I am thinking about,” said Carter. “It is a good start to see if working with children is my passion.”
The conference concluded Friday evening with a keynote address given by David Baluarte, associate clinical professor of law and director of the Immigrant Rights Clinic at Washington and Lee University. SHECP’s 2019 summer programming theme is “Immigration and Migration: The Interdependency of Global Poverty and Domestic Immigration Patterns.” Baluarte has written extensive publications on the relationship between immigration and poverty. His work and research are of particular interest to the wide number of SHECP interns heading to refugee and immigration services, but also the rest of the conference attendees who are committed to understanding more deeply the dynamics of global poverty.
Baluarte spoke on the current American climate for migrants and refugees. He discussed the recent World Bank report entitled “Moving for Prosperity: Global Migration and Labor Markets.” This comprehensive report found an explicit relationship between poverty and migration. Baluarte’s body of research suggests that migration is economically favorable to both the migrants and the countries receiving them. His nuanced perspectives on immigration are especially important to a group of motivated young people who desire to make positive strides for justice and equity in their world.
Baluarte advised interns to question the real impact of their work for social change. This begins with humility and openness. He explained that communication is key in ensuring that communities are best served.
“Interns should work to understand the lives and perspectives of the people they want to help, as they will always provide the most reliable information about the effectiveness of interns’ efforts,” Baluarte said.
More broadly, the summer theme of the interdependency between migration and poverty, reflects SHECP’s commitment to seeking effective methods to combat poverty. The most successful interns have been those who contextualize their experiences within a holistic understanding of large-scale poverty. They have worked hard to challenge their perspectives to develop richer, deeper understanding of what a vocation in the service of others looks like.
SHECP ambassadors, who are program alumni, have testimonial evidence for the kind of growth that the summer brings. Laura Calhoun is a SHECP ambassador and current intern at Horton’s Kids, a youth academic support nonprofit in Washington, D.C. Calhoun noticed an incredible personal growth during her SHECP summer last year.
“I was interested in incarceration before the SHECP internship which is why I wanted to work at the juvenile detention center,” Calhoun said of her experience in Cleveland. “Working there completely changed how I viewed the world: going to a different city and meeting people who were my age with such different life experiences made me understand the importance of work with youth.”
Bright and early Saturday morning, SHECP interns gathered as cohorts to take busses, trains, and planes to their respective placement locations. They went out into the world, some feeling anxious and others feeling excited, all about to undertake a summer of profound service, learning, and growth. They will be met with challenges, opportunities, and new relationships. They will make small and large strides to better the communities around them. We are excited to hear from our interns as the summer goes on.
About the Shepherd Higher Education Consortium on Poverty: The Shepherd Higher Education Consortium on Poverty (SHECP), is a consortium of colleges and universities that are committed to the study of poverty as a complex social problem, by expanding and improving educational opportunities for college students in a wide range of disciplines and career trajectories. SHECP institutions support undergraduates toward a lifetime of professional and civil efforts to diminish poverty and enhance human capability. For more information, please visit ShepherdConsortium.org, or follow us on Twitter at @TheSHECP.