Whitman summer internship grants benefit students, community

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Whitman summer internship grants benefit students, community

Gina Ohnstad, Director of Media and Public Relations at Whitman College

 

At Whitman College, Monday is the last day of classes, finals are right around the corner and students are putting the finishing touches on their summer plans. For some students, those plans include interning for organizations right here in the Walla Walla Valley through the Whitman Internship Grant Program.

And they aren’t just getting coffee or filing papers.

“Students work on high-impact, large-scale initiatives that benefit a variety of groups in the Walla Walla community like at-risk youth, people with disabilities, bilingual students or the elderly,” said Whitman Internship Coordinator Victoria Wolff.

This year, Whitman’s Summer Internship Grant Program will provide funding for more than 130 students to participate in internships across the country and abroad that closely align with their academic and career interests.

Most applicants seek out organizations they want to work with, propose an internship, craft a job description and project proposal, and then apply for the grant through the college.

Throughout the summer, students are able to test out theoretical concepts, apply classroom knowledge, carry out thesis research and hone skills they can apply in their future endeavors.

But these internships don’t just benefit our students — they are also a great thing for the organizations involved. This year, 30 of the grant recipients will lend their skills to local organizations like Blue Mountain Heart to Heart, Willow Charter School, the Walla Walla Foundry and ArtWalla, to name a few.

“Organizations who host Whitman interns usually tell me that they appreciate the enthusiasm, drive, creativity and fresh perspective that interns bring to their teams and projects,” Wolff said.

That is true for The Health Center, a nonprofit that provides physical, mental and coordinated health care services to Walla Walla students. Executive Director Stan Ledington says the interns they have hosted have been invaluable.

“With youthful energy, passion and a hunger to grow, Whitman interns have hit the ground running with us and been very productive,” Ledington said.

Because so many interns take ownership of substantial projects for them, organizations are able to get work done that might otherwise not be tackled. Interns have aided The Health Center in the form of graphic design, website design, publication work, outcomes assessment, advocacy, research and much more.

“The Health Center is a small nonprofit organization that provides a lot of services with a very lean staffing model,” Ledington said. “What that means in day-to-day terms is that there are not enough hours in the day to complete important tasks and projects. That’s why Whitman interns have been so valuable to us.”

Senior Stacie Bellairs spent last summer interning with The Health Center, where she crafted its annual report. Her time with the organization not only helped her hone practical skills, but also gave her a new perspective on Walla Walla.

“The pediatricians, counselors, board members and teachers at the clinic are some of the most passionate people who work day in and day out to fulfill one goal: to supply basic care to our community’s children,” Bellairs said. “This internship has allowed me to critically observe the complexities that surround Walla Walla’s health care and educational systems, something that used to feel a world away from my life on campus.”

As The Health Center gets ready to welcome a new intern to its team this summer, Ledington pointed out that part of the beauty of the relationships built between students and the organizations is that they don’t end when classes start back up in the fall.

“The Whitman interns have turned into an integral part of our team and family. Most stay engaged with us and continue sharing their skills long after the internship has finished,” he said.

 

Article originally appeared on Union-Bulletin.com.

 

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