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 Tuesday, July 15, 2008 IssueFaculty/Staff E-Newsletter


Student Perspective: PIIE summer internship program engages community
by Joanna Nasar, graduate student, Environmental Journalism

The Institute for Ethical and Civic Engagement’s (IECE) numerous programs have helped students become involved in civic community outreach since 2005. The Public Interest Internship Experience (PIIE) is one of many unique opportunities the IECE offers to students. The innovative program gives a limited number of fellowship grants to undergraduate’s who intern with nonprofits and the government.

The program began along with Project 55 at Princeton University. It was launched to assist students interested in public interest internships who normally might not be able to take a full-time unpaid internship. “It began as a collaborative effort between the Alumni Association Board of Directors, Career Services, Student Affairs and the Parents Association,” said IECE Director Peter Simons.

One of this year’s fellows, Chelsea Bridges, a senior English major and Norlin Scholar, is doing her summer internship with the nonprofit Sage Community Partnership. She is working at Polaris House, a transitional house for girls who have been in foster care. Five girls live in the house for six months at a time. While living at the house they learn ways to live independently and receive educational and vocational guidance. “I do educational things with the girls like finding out ways to develop their interests or to get a high school diploma if they don’t already have one,” Bridges said. She is also creating a tutoring training handbook for volunteers to use.

The internship has been enriching for Bridges who has seen firsthand how a small nonprofit runs and learned to work with the girls. “It is always changing because the girls lives are changing. It’s not a normal job with set tasks. It’s been interesting adapting to the ever changing environment,” she said. Bridges recommends the program to other students. “Whatever your interest, there is a use for it in the community,” she said.

Fellow Amy Vreeland, a senior international affairs major and Norlin scholar, is interning at the nonprofit Greenhouse Scholars. They work to support high-performing, under-resourced students. Vreeland thinks that the PIIE program’s mentoring has been valuable. “They do a good job of helping us stay on track,” she said.

The PIIE program, which recently added an advisory board to mentor students, has grown in many ways since it first began in 2005-06. Some changes over the years include: expanding the internships from government agencies to also include nonprofits, an increase in the fellowship and an increase in support programming for fellows. In the future the program will continue to grow and offer more opportunities to students. “Our long range goal is to continually increase the number of quality available summer internships and to establish year-long paid internships for recent CU-Boulder graduates,” said Simons.

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