Lessons learned: my internship with Lake Erie Ink
Thirty minutes into my summer internship with Lake Erie Ink, my boss asked if I could help with a printing issue. I hardly knew what to do, being an English major and economics minor. But we needed attendance sheets for that week’s camp. I learned my first important lesson about nonprofits while fiddling with the computer controls: people in nonprofits do whatever they can, wherever they can. Nonprofit staffers wear many hats, and I was eager to start wearing some of my own.
My collection of hats grew steadily over the course of the summer. In a single week, I might be a techie, a janitor, an office assistant and a data entry clerk. The next week, I might be a teaching assistant, a guest speaker, an artist or an editor. From my co-workers I learned new and unexpected skills: how to operate a commercial printer, unlock push bars, and set up a projector and speaker.
I learned that I already knew how to do things I did not believe I was capable of, such as writing press releases and making connections with the literary sector of Cleveland. I researched the skills I did not yet have, but which were within my capabilities, such as editing grant proposals and creating infographics. I helped with summer programs, taking on more responsibilities. I inspired youth to write and was, in turn, inspired by them. I learned how to be the cool older cousin that I had always wanted, and who I always wanted to be—a positive semi-adult figure for the kids.
I initially applied for my internship at Lake Erie Ink to learn about the administrative and technical sides of nonprofits, but I learned a lot more than that. Through my internship I learned to fake confidence and competency until I actually became confident and competent. I learned to be adaptable, to constantly challenge my perceived limits. I learned to be a good role model by leading with both examples and words. I learned about why nonprofit work called to me in the first place—for the people we help and the changes we make.
Lake Erie Ink: a writing space for youth is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to provide creative expression opportunities and academic support to youth in the Greater Cleveland community. If you are interested in volunteering, contact Jill at firstname.lastname@example.org. Fall programs begin Aug 27. For more information about fall programs, visit www.lakeerieink.org.
Won Hee Kim
Won Hee Kim is an intern at Lake Erie Ink and a third-year English major at Case Western Reserve University. Won Hee is the president of Writers Writing Words, the campus’s creative writing club.