Over the past two years, the IRT has partnered with the University of New Hampshire’s (UNH) Social Innovation Internship Program. The program places students who are passionate, impact-focused and looking to pursue careers with a social mission. The IRT has had two amazing UNH students work at the IRT office during the past two years at the Summer Workshop. The partnership was initiated by IRT Arts & Sciences Specialist and UNH alum, Brittany Zorn, IRT ’13. Brittany mentors each UNH student during their time with the IRT.
We are excited to share and thank the students at UNH who have contributed their thoughts and experiences on their time with the IRT in this two-part special blog post.
Social Innovation Internship 2018
Juliana presents and shares her IRT experience at UNH’s Social Innovation Internship Showcase in the video and in her written commentary below.
From the time I was in junior high, I was already starting to see my peers struggling. I went to a school where 60% of students were at or below the poverty line, where they had one or no parents at home, where they had no one believing in their ability to succeed. I couldn’t understand why some of my smartest friends were failing classes. I couldn’t understand why despite the best intentions of most teachers, many students were fighting each other, doing drugs in the cafeteria bathroom, or harming themselves. I wanted to help. So I decided to go into education.
When it came time to apply to college, I thought I wanted to be a teacher. I started off in the Music Education program at the University of New Hampshire (UNH), eager to figure out how I could help students and bring equity to the classroom. But as I went through my classes, I realized I wasn’t necessarily being equipped to do this. I was learning how to help individual students, how to get them to hold their bows correctly and sit with good playing posture, but I wasn’t learning how to help the droves of students who were completely lost as they navigated their K-12 education and beyond. At the end of my freshman year, an opportunity arose: the Social Innovation Internship. I knew I wanted to do something productive with my summer, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity. As I looked through the host sites, the IRT immediately stuck out to me as being a perfect fit; a non-profit involved in education equity? I was sold within thirty seconds of reading the mission statement!
I look forward to carrying the mission of the IRT with me wherever I go in life, and sharing it with as many people as I can.
After being graciously accepted to the position, I was extremely enthusiastic to begin my work. I was tasked with creating a resource guide for the IRT; essentially, a start-to-finish guide on applying to graduate school and choosing the right place to go. This seemed really daunting at the time. As I went through the process of compiling information for this guide, I realized just how complicated the application process is. So many forms, so many fees, so many components that had to be written just right. I couldn’t begin to imagine what the application process would be like if I was starting from square one, knowing no one who went to graduate school. That’s when it hit me: the work the IRT does is on a pipeline that starts much earlier in the lives of the students they serve, and so many others. Those kids I met in junior high were dealing with issues outside of school that I couldn’t even fathom, issues that only compounded as these students went through their schooling. I was reading sample Statements of Purpose from IRT alum, in which many of them detailed the struggles they faced that pointed them to their current direction of study. These people were able to take adverse experiences, and turn them into positive goals. It made me realize that all students need this kind of “Aha Moment”, where their passions are ignited regardless of, or perhaps partly because of, the negative things they’ve encountered.
On the whole, the public education system in the US does not facilitate these kinds of epiphanies, because it does not serve the students who need that extra push, but rather the students who can score well on tests and have the resources to participate in extracurricular activities. My time at IRT helped me to figure out what I want to pursue, as IRT alum, Dudney Sylla, IRT ’09 and current program manager, MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership once said, “create with my career”: an education system where all students are encouraged, all productive passions are valued, and where each student is pushed in the direction of their dreams.
I am so grateful to have had this opportunity and to maintain my connection with the IRT. I wish to thank my incredible, feisty, fabulous, genius, amazing mentor Brittany Zorn, and the wonderful, fiery, tenacious, cheese-loving Kate Slater for guiding me through this internship and for continuing to support and encourage my goals. I also want to thank everyone in the IRT office for being the most incredible group of women I’ve ever met, and the 2018 Summer Interns for letting me pick your brain and learn from and about you. I look forward to carrying the mission of the IRT with me wherever I go in life, and sharing it with as many people as I can.