Making a difference.
Melinda Chan and Caroline Easton walked around the maze of shelves and boxes at Schoolhouse Supplies, highlighting the space, rattling off facts, and pointing out pride points:
“Donations get accepted here and then put into inventory.”
“That pallet contains 11,000 pencils.”
“We spent a lot of time organizing the swag wall in the free store for teachers.”
Their knowledge and passion for the nonprofit carried throughout the tour, but occasionally they looked to Alice Forbes, executive director, for guidance. It was just a few weeks earlier that the two UO students joined Schoolhouse Supplies as interns through the Portland Internship Experience program.
Now they were learning the ins and outs of an organization that provides supplies, tools, and resources for students and teachers at underserved schools in the region.
The Portland Internship Experience program launched this past summer with the goal to remove financial barriers that often come with accessing internships. Many small businesses and nonprofits are not able to provide paid internships, and many students need income over the summer.
Thanks to UO donors, each student in the program earned a $5,000 stipend for their summer internship. There were 30 students at 28 internship sites this summer, working up to 40 hours per week over 11 weeks. Students received career and support services from university staff and participated in team-building group activities, like a small dinner with UO alumnus Greg Bell, a motivational speaker and author of Water the Bamboo.
“During the planning of this program last year, we recognized a relatively small amount of support could make a big impact to both students and to small businesses and nonprofits in the Portland community,” says Jane Gordon, vice provost for UO Portland.
“A quality internship can have a lasting effect on career readiness and build professional connections for students. Our internship sites were selected based on their commitment in areas such as social justice, community building, racial equity, and economic recovery. This was the first time many of our sites have had the chance to work with an intern.”
Skyler Foreman, a product design student, was the first intern at Produce Portland, an artist collective that specializes in streetwear, music, and culture in the Old Town neighborhood. During his internship, he designed artwork, learned details of running a retail shop, and created his own clothing brand with mentorship from UO alumnus Jordan Carter, an owner at Produce Portland.
“I learned a lot about how a small business is run. My coworkers and peers showed me what it means to be passionate about something,” Foreman says. “This internship has given me an opportunity to explore something in my field that I really enjoy.”
Both Chan and Easton gained on-the-ground experience in their chosen majors while organizing the Schoolhouse Supplies warehouse to help with distributing materials before the new school year.
“Portland Internship Experience gave me a chance to learn about different organizations and their missions,” says Chan, who is studying accounting. “I was also lucky enough to experience a wide range of activities and see how a nonprofit organization operates. I was also able to experience and learn about tallying, sorting, and managing the warehouse, fundraising, donor retention, marketing, capital campaigns, and many other areas. It was really nice to talk with other interns about their intern sites and interests.”
Easton, who studies communication disorders and sciences, connected with a retired educator and longtime volunteer at Schoolhouse Supplies who shared teacher resources, stories from the classroom, and professional advice.
“This program gives students the opportunity to focus in on the fields they care about, such as sustainability or education, while also challenging them to work outside of what may be comfortable,” says Easton, who organized the three-day Tools for Schools volunteer event at the end of August. Those 11,000 pencils were split into school supply kits and distributed to students throughout Portland.
The inaugural Portland Internship Experience wrapped up in September. Interns are back in Eugene for class and planning is underway to offer 50 internships next year.
Ready for Summer 2022?
Small businesses, nonprofits, educational, and civic agencies can apply now to have a UO intern next summer. Deadline is Nov. 1. in Portland to mentor and work with a UO student next summer.
Students who are interested can plan to apply beginning in January.
Noelyne Leni Alitema
The Portland Internship Experience is made possible thanks to donor support. If you are interested in learning more about the program – including how to make a gift in support of the internships – please contact Ayasha Benninghoven at firstname.lastname@example.org or 503-412-3687.