Add a measure of youthful optimism and intelligence to any setting and watch the energy flow. If you’re lucky, sparks will ignite the atmosphere around you in the form of smart young folks like Sophie Craypo and Rahul Menon, a junior and senior at Occidental College. Both Sophie and Rahul applied last year and won Cornuelle Fellowships, one of Occidental’s most prestigious and competitive honors. Along with a substantial financial award, Cornuelle Fellows for the last four summers have received summer internship placements at Community Partners. While we know Sophie and Rahul have received well-deserved recognition, it’s funny how we feel like we’ve won the prize.
For starters, Community Partners gets brainpower along with keen, clear focus. One of our major health initiative teams and our program team both get added, hands-on personnel. Were he still alive, Richard Cornuelle, whose family endowed the fellowships, would likely say that his compelling scholarship and disruptive ideas get new vitality. And Southern California communities reap the ultimate benefit because Rahul and Sophie’s work propels our mission of advancing ideas into action that advance the public good.
Long gone are the days when hosting interns meant free indentured summer servants who fetched coffee and brought bright eyes to a seasoned workplace. Besides their experiences abroad, students rate internships during college among the peak experiences of their higher education. Every school worth its U.S. News and World Report ranking highlights internship access and placement as a selling point when recruiting incoming freshmen. Every top private high school and many public high schools prime their students about the importance of engaging in field-level internships. And employers understand that an early look at top talent gives them a leg up in hiring the best graduates.
My son, Ethan, a rising senior at Fordham University interested in sports marketing has the good fortune of traveling all over the United States and Canada this summer as an intern for a high-end bike company that markets to elite athletes and sponsors the Ironman racing circuit. Ethan reports a stark contrast between his undergraduate business school classroom learning and the intense day-to-day demands of working the front line of a growing, brand-forward business. From now on, he’ll draw from his summer experience in every presentation he makes, every problem he’s asked to solve, every idea that’s posed as a challenge to his growing mind. Therein lies the benefit to the intern.
Does the business or organization get much in return? I can answer for us.
In addition to the energy, enthusiasm and fresh perspective we’ve enjoyed from our experience with Cornuelle fellows, we also see hosting interns as an increment of investment in the future. We think those young people who spend time immersed in our mission and culture, who are provided the view we have on the world of social entrepreneurs and the social sector, will carry those values on to wherever their futures take them. It fulfills part of our civic duty to initiate a new generation of leaders to the rewards and rigors of endeavors that matter to the quality of community life.
Rahul, Sophie and Ethan will see a lot while they’re buckling down to the work of the weeks ahead. They’re also going to step out after college into a myriad of other situations that will mold the way they think and influence how they choose to live their lives. We have no clue, really, where any of them will end up. What we know is that these young people stand for the future. Their internships open windows to reveal glimpses – hopefully tantalizing ones – of options for getting there.