Princeton Internships in Civic Service

Where are PICS Interns Today?

Three Generations of Interns: Association for Community Affiliated Plans (ACAP)

“I had such a great experience in the PICS program that I wanted to try to give that to a current student. ACAP is very different from the AAMC [where I was an intern] – we’re a much smaller office (just 13 of us, instead of hundreds) but I thought that we would be able to provide a valuable experience for an intern. I also knew how well the PICS program was run, and was sure we’d get qualified, exciting applicants, so it was an obvious choice and easy to get my coworkers and supervisor on board with hiring a PICS intern.”

-Rebecca Thorsness ’13

Aleksandra Czulak ’17, 2015 ACAP intern, with Alumni Partner Jessica Flugge ’98 and supervisor Rebecca Thorsness ’13. Flugge and Thorsness were both former PICS interns.

Aleksandra Czulak ’17, 2015 ACAP intern, with Alumni Partner Jessica Flugge ’98 and supervisor Rebecca Thorsness ’13. Flugge and Thorsness were both former PICS interns.

“Becca made sure that I always had a project and she helped clarify topics and resources that I was new to. Becca had interned in D.C. as a PICS intern during college and she made sure that my internship experience was full, interesting, and flexible. It was wonderful to have a Princeton connection at the office and we had many conversations about Princeton, majors, fellowships, and post-grad opportunities.

-Aleksandra Czulak ’17


Meet Shirley Wu’15

Interned at PU Summer Journalism Program and New York Public Library

Shirley, a former PICS intern, graduated from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs in 2015 and was a member of the PICS Student Advisory Council (SAC).

“My PICS internships were one of the highlights of my time at Princeton. They allowed me to take the skills I had acquired through my studies and apply them in trying to help solve the problems that non-profits face. It was incredibly rewarding for me to see the real-world application and importance of the things I was studying and learning.

More importantly though, they helped cultivate and foster an interest in the non-profit world and a desire to serve. I had interned in the private sector before, and my PICS internship experiences provided the perfect comparison. The contrast highlighted my desire to work with people who are passionate and cause-oriented. My PICS internships were pivotal moments — I’ve always been interested in the arts, but could never really see myself working in that field. But working for Princeton University Summer Journalism Program and then the New York Public Library helped me realize that I could find the right niche for my skill set in the non-profit arts world.

After my first PICS internship ended, I wanted to find a way to stay involved with PICS. It was such an incredible experience for me and I wanted to share that experience with other Princeton students. I joined the SAC  in its inaugural year as the Communications chair. My job was to get the word out, and to increase PICS’s presence on campus. Programs like IIP are well-known by students and well-advertised by Career Services, but PICS didn’t have nearly the same kind of audience reach. I created a PICS Facebook page and Twitter, and worked with other student volunteers to develop a social media plan. With the help of the rest of SAC, I also helped plan on-campus events such as information sessions in the fall, Q&A sessions for prospective interns with past PICS interns, and various other events to raise PICS’s profile.

For me, SAC was an opportunity to give back to PICS, an organization that had helped me define my career desires. My PICS internships were one of the highlights It was so rewarding to see the PICS program grow, to hear more students on campus talk about PICS, and to interact with each year’s PICS intern class and hear their experiences. I think the most valuable thing I’ve done for PICS was helping to lay the foundation for SAC’s future growth. Creating SAC and defining its purpose was a huge challenge, but I’d like to think that I helped create a venue for PICS interns’ voices to be heard by the program at large. It’s so important to have feedback and buy-in from interns in order for the program to continue to grow and flourish. I hope that PICS SAC will continue to expand, that every Princeton student will know about PICS, and that more and more students will have the opportunity to work for a non-profit or civic service organization at some point in their Princeton career to really round out their learning experience.

After graduation, I took some time off to travel and reboot. I’m now working in strategy at an asset manager, and I still volunteer with a non-profit. I recently moved to New York and am looking to get involved with the vibrant arts community here as well. My goal is to be working in non-
profit strategy in a few years, helping museums and music organizations develop plans to sustain themselves financially, as well as to fulfill their mission, whether that be arts education or simply reaching a wider audience.

While I’m not on campus anymore, PICS is never far from my mind. I’ve come across a few organizations in New York City that I thought would be exciting places to intern, and so I’ve reached out and asked them to become PICS partner organizations. As much as I can, I like to help develop new internship opportunities. I’m always keeping an eye out for interesting organizations I would have wanted to work at! In a couple of years, I hope I’ll have the opportunity to serve as a PICS Alumni Partner. My alumni partners, Rick Kitto and Dave Offensend, were amazing supporters and mentors, and I would love to have the opportunity to support future PICS interns.


Princetonians at The Rock: A Tale of Two Eagle Rock Interns

(originally found on the Eagle Rock School website)

We’ve had dozens of college students participating in internships here at Eagle Rock, and many of them consider that time of service a highlight in their educational lives.

One such person was Sarah Bertucci, our very first Princeton University student to perform a summer internship here at the Eagle Rock School and Professional Development Center back in our very first year. Our most recent Princeton intern is Alexandria Robinson, whose Eagle Rock experience began in June and will conclude in late August.

We thought it would be fun to let these two Princeton alumni share their experiences in an alternating, back-to-back format. Both have favorable memories of their stay here, even though a 21-year gap separates their experience.

Let’s get started…

Sarah Bertucci: Back in the spring of 1994, I applied to Princeton’s Summer Service Program, a program that placed college students in summer service jobs, mostly in urban nonprofits. I wanted to learn new things, be part of a new community, and make a contribution.

Sarah-Bertucci-eagle-rock

I had never been interested in teaching, but by a stroke of good luck, I was placed at Eagle Rock during its first summer in operation. It sounded like a great opportunity to be part of a brand new school. On top of that, I’d never been out West or seen mountains up close. So, I accepted the position and began counting the days until my arrival at in Estes Park.

Alexandria Robinson: Similar to Sarah’s experience, my application to Eagle Rock fell under an umbrella program. Revamped with a new name — Princeton Internships in Civic Service — the program is designed to place students in service jobs based on different sectors, such as health, education, science and more. After receiving a ”callback email” and then scheduling and participating in an interview via Skype, I was offered a summer internship starting in June 2015.

Alexandria-Robinson-Eagle-Rock-Intern

I was excited, but nervous. I was given two days to make a decision. It was only January and I couldn’t fathom making a firm commitment for something that wouldn’t affect me until June. I knew I wanted to teach, but at that point, the bulk of my experience in education had been with much younger students than the high school age ones at Eagle Rock. What would it be like with older students? Will they like me? That’s when I realized that all of these questions were petty, and I knew the benefits of this internship far outweighed any anxieties I might have. I confidently said yes, and never looked back.

Sarah (1994): Michael and Cynthia Soguero picked me up at the airport. Michael was the instructional specialist for math and science, and he was my mentor teacher. On the way to the school we stopped to pick up a rocking chair for the Sogueros, who were expecting a new baby. That made me feel more like I was becoming a part of a larger family. I settled into one of the student wings in Ponderosa House — staff housing didn’t exist at that time. Only two houses had students (Pinon and Spruce), so staff members lived in some of the other houses. I quickly met some of the 30 or so students who were on campus at that time.

Alexandria (2015): When I arrived at Eagle Rock, I was at a loss for words. I knew that this place was probably going to be pretty nice, but when we first drove in, I couldn’t stop staring at the mountains. I couldn’t believe that people actually got to live and go to school here. I soon met both Dan Condon and Kelsey Baun from the Professional Development Center team, and was given a tour of the campus. I learned about the academic buildings and the residential life/house system, and it was immediately evident that a true community exists here.

After getting settled into Willow (the Fellow/summer intern housing), I quickly began to meet lots of people. I tried my best to remember every name I heard, but this day was tougher than most. I do remember feeling overwhelmed by the kindness and genuine support I was shown that day. Which is, of course, another example of how loving this community is.

Sarah (1994): My position was as the math and science intern, so I co-taught classes with Michael. I remember students making mathematical representations of numbers and quantities that interested them. One poster showed the number of American deaths from gun violence in the United States compared with the number of American deaths in the Gulf War. Another project involved making three-dimensional boxes to show the actual volume of cereal in a box, compared to the size of the cereal box.

Beyond the classroom, I wore many hats, just like Eagle Rock staffers do today — running current events and activities, driving down to Denver, participating in gender meetings — the list goes on and on. Since the campus was still being constructed, I remember raking out erosion gullies and building the sand volleyball court.

Alexandria (2015): My primary function surrounds residential life. I plan and coordinate evening activities for students and to find a balance between what is engaging and what suits a teenager’s desires — and what’s budgeted.

Beyond this role, it is also my job to fill in where necessary and to be a resource — whether that means sitting in and helping with cheer practice or attending the Denver PrideFest with Spectrum, a student group here on campus. I am loving the flexibility that comes with my internship, and it’s teaching me about listening to others, being open to something new, and applying my strengths in the best way possible. I am also so thankful to be in such close contact with students. They definitely keep me on my toes, and each day is a joy.

Sarah (1994): I learned more in that summer than I ever could have imagined, including things like cooperative learning and how incredibly hard it is to plan a class. I remember pulling an all-nighter to prepare for my first day teaching physics. However, the longest-lasting lessons came as a direct result of the students — lessons that were humbling and eye-opening. I was 18 years old at the time, only six months older than some of the students, and I felt proud of how hard I had worked to get into a good college and be moving towards a successful adult life.

I lived in the privileged White bubble where hard work is rewarded and life plays fair.I got to know students who had worked far harder than I did, who used their smarts to survive rather than get a good SAT score. My eyes were forever opened, and as a result, I have been on a different journey ever since.

Alexandria (2015): I have been at Eagle Rock for about a month, and it’s already evident that I am going to learn so much. Every day I am reminded to think beyond what I know, and instead focus on what I see. It is easy to rely on assumptions, but here I am reminded that no story is the same as the next, and each student has an individual, unique reason for being exactly who they are. And that, I’ve found, is beautiful.

I am also learning what it means to be truly patient with someone, and to learn how to keep motivating a student, even when he or she wants to give up. Here at Eagle Rock I am reminded that people just want to be heard, and that I need to slow down and listen. I am learning what to work on in myself so that I can better serve this community.

Sarah (1994): That summer internship at Eagle Rock changed my life — it may sound cliché, but it’s true. As soon as I returned to college, I went to the Teacher Preparation Office and started my coursework to become a teacher. After graduating from college and teaching for a couple years, I returned to Eagle Rock as the Year-Long Science “Intern” (now Public Allies Fellow) in 2001.

That year at Eagle Rock was yet another amazing experience for me. One part of that experience was teaching Physics and Calculus with Jason Cushner. Since then, he and I have gotten married, had two children, and returned to Eagle Rock this past August as Juniper House Parents. My life path is inextricably entwined with Eagle Rock, and I am forever grateful.

Alexandria (2015): Beyond Eagle Rock, I can’t quite foresee exactly how my story will change, but I know for sure that I will return to school even more motivated to pursue a career in education — and not just by teaching, but also focusing on reform.

It is heartbreaking to me the way privilege can determine someone’s entire life course, and that is not talked about nearly enough. I’ve always imagined myself in the classroom, and I think that will still happen, be it elementary or high school, but for now, I feel confident and passionate enough in the idea of maybe working with nonprofits that seek education reform. Eagle Rock is giving me a foundation on which I can grow. I want to become more educated in alternative schooling methods, learning what can happen beyond a traditional classroom setting.

 


William Wong ’02 on PICS

wong1

We recently caught up with William Wong ‘02 to see how his PICS experience impacted him. He credits his experience with the TEAK Fellowship during his freshman and sophomore summers in 1999 and 2000 as key factors that led his career change and to where he is now as an educator.

Graduating with a BSE degree in civil engineering, Wong still retained benefits from being a project engineer for a major general contracting company by advantageously applying his engineering background in his career shift. “The work experience helped me become a better manager in the cross industries of general contracting and public education,” he says, “all the same, people like to be respected, whether they’re older people twice my age and weight or teens that are half my age and weight.”

Currently, he serves as the Director of Fiscal Services for the San Gabriel Unified School District. In the past, he has spent seven years as a high school math teacher, and has twice been elected President of the San Gabriel Teachers’ Association. He has been involved with multiple panels sponsored by the National Education Association, Education Pioneers, and the Center for American Progress, among various other organizations. His heavy involvement with education advocacy stems in large part with his experience at TEAK.

“I saw how meaningful the work was, and having direct interactions helping the students stayed with me throughout my life,” William says. He saw TEAK from its very beginnings, as it bore its mission to help talented, low-income New York City students gain resources, support, and admission to top high schools and colleges.

While at his TEAK internship, William was the “office guy”, as he taught a couple of classes and helped with the Summer Institute.

“I saw what happens when you bring students with a lot of potential and match them with the resources they should’ve had,” he exclaims, “TEAK had an instrumental part in changing the life trajectories of students.”

“The class of 1999 was the first class of fellows, and some have just graduated from medical and law school,” he adds.

It wasn’t just the students’ life trajectories that changed at TEAK during those summers, but William’s life trajectory as well. He notes, “I saw my boss building the organization from the ground up. I learned a lot from her, and she talked with me all the way through now on how to interact and work with people.”

Speaking on the topic of the alumni mentor component of his internship experience, Wong says “It was valuable seeing an example of a Princeton alumn countering a narrative of what alumni should be.” Adding, “It was good seeing Claus Frank ‘69 happy in his civic service work, and I’ve kept in contact with him through the years.”

“The 1969 Community Service Fund addresses how working in civic service can be a viable, meaningful, and rewarding career,” William explains.

Asked if he has any regrets on his career change, and Wong answers, “I look back at my career change, and don’t regret it at all.”

William shares the following piece of advice for Princeton students seeking to gain value from exploring opportunities or careers in civic service: “I encourage undergraduates to just take chances. You’re always learning and discovering. College is all about that. Try an internship in civic service, because that experience will change you to become a more informed citizen and the way you care about the world. PICS gives you a wonderful opportunity to do just that.”