SECU Public Fellows Internships Allow Students to Give Back to Hometowns

This summer, eight NC State students had the opportunity to gain work experience relevant to their intended career path while also helping to serve their hometowns, thanks to a grant from the State Employees Credit Union (SECU) Foundation’s Public Fellows Intern program.

The SECU Foundation established the Public Fellow Interns program in 2015 at Appalachian State University, East Carolina University, and UNC Pembroke, and provides funding for summer internships at nonprofit organizations and local government agencies in rural communities. NC State received funding to establish the SECU Public Fellows Intern program in 2020, and sent forth its first cohort of students this summer.

“Our first students in the program did excellent work this summer, and we are thrilled they had the opportunity to give back to their hometowns in this way,” said Rebekah Dunstan, rural outreach coordinator for NC State’s Career Development Center.

Due to COVID-19, some of the internships were virtual, while others were held in person. Each intern worked approximately 38 hours a week for nine weeks.

The eight students who were awarded SECU Public Fellows internships were:

  • Ashley Resendiz-Chavez: Harnett Regional Water 
  • Caleb White: Albemarle Regional Health Services
  • Asha Farmer: Men and Women United for Youth & Families
  • Leah Garris: Wayne County Public Schools
  • Nicyah Gravely: Rockingham County Partnership for Children
  • Katelynn Roark: United Way of Franklin County
  • Carson Smith: Cabarrus County Public Schools
  • Mariyln Uriarte-Ayala: City of Oxford

Here is what some of the interns had to say about their experience:

Caleb White: Albemarle Regional Health

Caleb White
Caleb White

Why did you want this internship opportunity and how did it come about?

I already had a bit of experience working in social media through a position at NC State. During the summer, I wanted to find something that would help me improve my skills and become better in the marketing field. I looked on ePACK for a while until I found this internship at Albemarle Regional Health Services, which happened to be in my hometown. I thought that it could help me gain some experience, so I applied. 

Tell us about your responsibilities at the internship. What were some of your proudest accomplishments there?

The job initially called for me to work in social media, so I started by optimizing the ARHS social media channels. Soon after, I started working with the Overdose Prevention program. Here, I worked a lot in graphic design, which I had never done before. I ended up designing brochures, social media content, and four different billboards. The billboards have to be my greatest accomplishment. I can literally drive down the road and see an entire billboard that I designed! 

What is your major/field of study at NC State? How did this internship factor in and give you experience in your field?

I am a business administration major with a concentration in marketing. This internship gave me a lot of experience. Because this was the first time that I worked with an organization unaffiliated with NC State, I was able to work on a few projects that were aimed at target demographics that I had never worked with before. I will definitely take these experiences with me in the future.

Did this internship inspire you to seek a career in government/nonprofit work? What were your biggest takeaways or what did you learn about yourself from the experience?

Before this internship, the thought of working in government had never crossed my mind. But after, I see it as a real possibility. I believe that I was put on this earth to help others, and I think that working in an organization that has similar goals, as opposed to strict profit-driven motives, can help me accomplish this. This internship played a big key in this. Even though I was unable to meet in-person with those that I would be impacting (due to COVID), I was still motivated every morning to wake up, do my job, and keep helping others. 

Nicyah Gravely: Rockingham County Partnership for Children

Nicyah Gravely 
Nicyah Gravely

Why did you want this internship opportunity and how did it come about?

I wanted this internship opportunity because I wanted to gain some professional experience and work with an organization revolving around youth. It was based in my native county, so it was a win-win situation for me. I remember talking with my TRIO coach, Sarah Wright, about how I was thinking about wanting to apply for a summer internship this year but I did not think I would get one because I was a freshman. With her advice and support, I went to apply for the position anyway and landed an interview! I recall being so nervous, and I was sure I was not going to get it because I felt unqualified. But, God had a different plan for me and RCPC called me a couple days later offering me the internship. I was so excited and extremely grateful for the opportunity!

Tell us about your responsibilities at the internship. What were some of your proudest accomplishments there?

Some of my responsibilities included:

1. Getting familiar with the organization and the employees

2. Interviewing staff members and creating infographics for RCPC’s website 

3. Suggesting content for RCPC’s website and social media pages

4. Assisting staff members with anything communications-related

5. Conducting interviews with members of the surrounding community and contributing to a “Storytelling Project” 

6. Other duties as assigned to me by the executive director

What is your major/field of study at NC State? How did this internship factor in and give you experience in your field?

My major is criminology with an intent to double major in social work. My internship factored in and gave me experience in this field by allowing me to gain exposure to see the various resources and services they provide to their recipients. With an interest in helping underserved/struggling populations, I enjoyed witnessing how much of a difference this non-profit organization is making. I got to see how some of the logistics work, and I am thankful for groups like this that are willing to put in that extra time and effort for those in need.

Did this internship inspire you to seek a career in government/nonprofit work? What were your biggest takeaways or what did you learn about yourself from the experience? 

I was already looking into the social work field, so this internship contributed to my desire to continue researching and looking into populations who need extra attention in our society. My biggest takeaway from the experience was that support and collaboration is key to working with any team, and that was definitely present during my time working with RCPC. 

Katelynn Roark: United Way of Franklin County/Boys and Girls Club of Central North Carolina

Katelyn Roark demonstrates one of her STEAM experiments for children in the Boys and Girls Club 
Katelyn Roark demonstrates one of her STEAM experiments for children in the Boys and Girls Club

Why did you want this internship opportunity and how did it come about?

I found out about this internship through a newsletter sent to me from the University Scholars program. I had wanted to find a summer internship so I could do something more interesting with my summer instead of being a lifeguard, which I normally do during my summers, but it wasn’t something dire that I was searching for. I saw that this particular internship was located in a town near where I am from, and so I knew it would be easy to commute and I wouldn’t have to find additional housing. The internship interested me because it was originally titled as a STEAM camp coordinator. I enjoy working with kids and love everything about STEAM, so I thought the combination of the two would be perfect for me. 

Tell us about your responsibilities at the internship. What were some of your proudest accomplishments there?

My role at my internship was as a camp coordinator for a virtual STEAM summer camp. The camp was free and available to any child in K-12 who lived in the five-county area in which the Boys and Girls Club served. The United Way and the Boys and Girls Club of Central North Carolina partnered together as the United Way had the facilities/materials and the BGCCNC had the campers. The camp was seven weeks long and I was responsible for coming up with themes for each week. Once I had a theme, I was also responsible for finding low-cost/free activities and materials that the BGC could then buy supplies for, pack them in boxes, and send them to the homes of the campers. Once the children received the boxes of materials for the week. I conducted a live Zoom session each day and taught the kids the activity. Additionally, I recorded different, more complicated activities that the kids could do on their own and posted them on YouTube. 

One of my proudest accomplishments was walking into the room where we had all the supplies that were purchased and were packing up the boxes. It was really awesome to see because all of what was happening was occurring because of me and my efforts. Although it was not much, at that moment I felt that I was actually doing something impactful. These kids were now going to be able to do these fun and educational activities all summer instead of having nothing to do. 

What is your major/field of study at NC State? How did this internship factor in and give you experience in your field?

I am currently majoring in biochemistry and minoring in environmental science and teaching English as a foreign language. The internship factored into my major because both revolved around science. Although the internship was not too complex around chemistry or too difficult with science, it still taught me how to manage my time and work among other people professionally. A lot of the camp’s success was on my shoulders, so I had to learn to work under the pressure and make sure I was enjoying my time with the kids and not too stressed about trying to make the camp perfect.

Did this internship inspire you to seek a career in government/nonprofit work? What were your biggest takeaways or what did you learn about yourself from the experience? 

It didn’t necessarily inspire me to have a career in the government, but I had already wanted to do government work as I would love to work in the EPA or another environmental agency as an environmental consultant. I think one of the biggest takeaways from this experience is to expect the unexpected and to learn to adapt under current circumstances. Overall, the camp was incredibly different than what it was planned to be, and had to be quickly revised to fit the current circumstances. I knew I wanted to still help in whatever way I could, even though it was not what I had originally planned for it to be. I wanted to help these kids in any way I could. 

This post was originally published in DASA.