Internship Programs Provide Students with Real World Experience

JEVS, a partner agency of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, offers two unique programs for students — both college and high school students — to help them make the most of their sacred three-month break between hitting the books.

Gone — or mostly gone — are the days when being a college student completing a summer internship meant fetching a complicated Starbucks order for the higher-ups or copying and scanning documents until your mind went numb.
Especially if JEVS Human Services has anything to do with it.
JEVS, a partner agency of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, offers two unique programs for students — both college and high school students — to help them make the most of their sacred three-month break between hitting the books.
The Franklin C. Ash Internship Program doubles as a matchmaking opportunity for the students who are picked. Well, professional matchmaking.
During the application and interview process for the 15 who are ultimately chosen, students are asked about their interests and field of interest. They are then matched with one of JEVS’ Jewish nonprofit organization partners.
These organizations range from the Anti-Defamation League to the Jewish Relief Agency to the Holocaust Awareness Museum and Education Center (HAMEC).
In other words, students have the chance to spend time at a place doing work that actually interests them.
It’s one of the facets that makes the Ash program — now in its 17th year — unique, according to Peggy Truitt, program director at JEVS Career Strategies.
“We specifically place students at Jewish nonprofits or organizations that have some relationship to the Jewish community, so that certainly makes it a little bit different,” she said.
Eligible students for the Ash program are rising juniors and seniors who identify as Jewish, and have an interest in nonprofit work — or, at least, Truitt hopes they do.
“The way the process works is as long as they fill out the information and show some interest and identify as being Jewish, and they’re a rising junior or senior, we interview them,” she explained.
Since the students are in school and the commute to JEVS’ Rittenhouse Square office can be tough, Truitt noted they often conduct interviews via Skype.
“Because one of the goals is to continue some sort of Jewish involvement or begin a connection to the Jewish community, we want to know what kind of career areas they’re interested in — certainly nonprofit is what we do, so we’re always looking for students who are looking to experience nonprofit.”
But students shouldn’t expect to be plopped at a worksite, then left to their own devices for seven weeks.
Ash students work four days a week — and are paid! — and on the fifth day, they do some sort of group activity, ranging from something fun like a version of The Amazing Race to an educational program.
For some of those group activities, the Ash students are joined by high schoolers participating in the Lasko College Prep Program. These students receive SAT and ACT test prep and are also placed three days a week in an internship at a Jewish nonprofit.
Ash students are partnered with Lasko students to impart some wisdom about what it’s really like to be in college and how they adjusted to their campus setting.
The mentorship they provide allows the Lasko students, who are rising high school seniors and fit the income qualifications of the program, to learn more about their own ambitions, and maybe fears, they have about their next phase of life before stepping foot on campus.
Some of the students in the Lasko program might be the first in their family going to college or don’t have as much exposure as Ash students do, Truitt added, so “we really look to the Ash students to maybe open up some of the thinking and the realities of going off to college.”
In addition to other services such as mock interviews and days where the students can shadow employees at organizations other than the one they are working for, Ash students are provided ways to be involved in the community and gain useful skills for the future.
After the summer is over, she hopes that the students will have gained valuable career skills as well as a feeling of connection with the Jewish community.
“We hope during the seven weeks they’re engaged in our program and also with the organization they work with that they see that these Jewish organizations still have a strong impact on communities and in the world,” she said.
For some past Ash students, the impact of the organization they worked with has had a lasting effect — even one that translated into a full-time job.
Geoffrey Quinn maintains with a laugh that he still wouldn’t know how to write a resume if he hadn’t participated.
A senior at the time he participated in the program as a history major at West Chester University with a focus on Holocaust and genocide studies, Quinn was fittingly placed at the Holocaust Awareness Museum and Education Center — where he now, at 27 and after a few years at different jobs, works full time, in his past supervisor’s position.
“After doing the Ash internship, I still believe all the work they do is absolutely incredible,” he said. “I feel so privileged and lucky to be able to experience that internship and all the relationships I’ve made as a result — it’s been absolutely incredible.”
Being matched with HAMEC seemed to be a perfect pairing. It combined his own interests with his passion for what the museum does. The internship also gave him direction with what he wanted to do with his life, a seemingly existential question that no one can answer.
“If I had done any old internship, it would have been nice,” he said, “but I got an opportunity to spend an entire summer working with what I want to do for the rest of my life. That was a huge eye-opener.”
Now, he still works with JEVS in his role with the museum as the Ash students participate in programs at HAMEC as part of the activities with the Lasko students and hear Holocaust survivors’ stories.
And whenever he has the chance, he tries to work with the staff in whatever way they might need — or just meet for lunch — because his experience was so positive.
“I still, to this day, when people ask me about internships to apply to that were really beneficial, I tell them the Franklin C. Ash internship because the knowledge I was able to gain from that is unparalleled,” he said. “To be able to be in an environment that nourished my professional development, my personal development and my identity as a Jew is just incredible.”
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