PICS Organization Name
Princeton University Summer Journalism Program
Princeton, New Jersey
Yes (Housing is not free: cost of a Princeton dorm)
Sam Aftel '20, Talitha Wisner '20, Vane Ong '20, Kat Powell '20, Mim Ra Aslaoui '18, Caroline Lippman '19
The Princeton University Summer Journalism Program (SJP) is a 16-year-old organization that works to address one of the country’s most pressing social problems: how to create pathways for students from impoverished backgrounds into elite, intellectual professions—including journalism and closely related fields. Every August, SJP welcomes 35-40 extremely low-income rising high school seniors to Princeton’s campus for an all-expenses-paid, 10-day seminar on journalism and college admissions. Our goal is to help these students go on to elite colleges—and to encourage them to subsequently pursue careers in journalism or other intellectual fields, thereby diversifying the professions that shape American democracy.
SJP is a unique partnership between Princeton University and an outside group of professional journalists who are passionately committed to the cause of diversifying journalism as well as the worlds of politics, policy, arts, and literature. PICS interns play a central role in setting up the program in June and July, and then helping to lead it during the 10 days in August. Bringing 35-40 students from across the country to Princeton for 10 days—and scheduling an educational experience for them that many later describe as life-changing—is a major undertaking, and PICS interns help to orchestrate this effort.
The main component of the internship consists of setting up the program. Typically, interns start in mid-June and the program is held during early August, giving the interns about seven weeks to work with SJP’s directors to set up the program. The interns arrange students’ transportation to and from Princeton, and work with students throughout the summer to make sure they complete the pre-program reading assignments. Before students arrive in Princeton, the interns help them get a head start on the college-admissions component of the program by editing first drafts of some of their college essays. The interns help to build the program’s schedule—inviting guest speakers; arranging for field trips (including visits to The New York Times, Cosmopolitan, Esquire, Huff Post, and Bloomberg, as well as, the last two years, arranging for the students to cover a preseason Jets game from the press box at MetLife Stadium); coming up with feature and news writing assignments that students can report in the Princeton area (for instance, a press conference with a congressional candidate); selecting professors to speak to the students; brainstorming and laying the groundwork for the students’ group investigative reporting project; working with the University’s conference services office to set up students’ and counselors’ meals and dorm rooms; and much more. During the 10-day program itself, the interns manage the program’s schedule and logistics. They also work with students on their reporting assignments, help to coordinate publication of the program’s newspaper, and generally serve as mentors and teachers for the students.
For interns, this internship is an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of 35-40 incredibly smart high school students. It is also a chance to participate in running and helping to build a small non-profit organization within Princeton University. Former interns have told us for years that the SJP internship is an incredibly rewarding experience — and they continue to stay involved for years after their internships, as program directors and counselors
The first thing we are looking for in prospective interns is genuine passion about making a difference in the lives of outstanding students from low-income backgrounds—students who may not have had the
kinds of summer academic opportunities that wealthier students often take for granted. Interns need to approach students with a positive, encouraging attitude and a genuine desire to work with and get to know them.
Equally important is that prospective interns be exceptionally organized. Bringing 35-40 students and about 25 counselors and scheduling a curriculum for them that consists of dozens of guest speakers as well
as numerous field trips, reporting assignments, and classes is an enormous logistical
undertaking. As a result, our interns need to be excellent task masters who are also mindful of their limitations and can rely on each other to spread the workload. The7 should:
- be incredibly detail-oriented and responsible
- be able to keep track of multiple people, processes, and documents in a way that allows them to easily recall the information, track updates, and report any changes
- take organized notes on needs, changes, and required tasks
- be able to adapt to a rapidly changing environment
- be able to work independently
- be self-reliant, adept problem-solvers
- take initiative
- be self-aware and able to check-in about their own personal needs and self-care
- be willing to ask for help
- be team-oriented and able to work well with others
Prior experience coordinating or managing logistics for a large program or group is preferred, but not required. Interns will learn quickly on the job.
Prior experience working with youth is also a plus.
It certainly helps if prospective interns have an appreciation for the value of teaching journalism to high school students, but the vast majority of our interns over the years have not themselves had a background in journalism. The bigger concern is the interns have a genuine interest in the mission of the work and a commitment to putting in the work to fulfill it.
In short, this is a great internship for someone who is entrepreneurial, organized, and idealistic about the idea that a 10-day program can change the lives of a group of outstanding low-income students. One thing we are very proud of is how many of our former interns have remained involved in SJP long past their internships. Two of our former PICS interns are now directors of the program; two others are serving as volunteer college admissions counselors for the program this year; and many others have stayed involved as well. We think this is a testament to the fact that our PICS interns not only have an excellent experience during their summer with SJP, but end up caring a great deal about the mission of the program.
Expected Start Time
Expected End Time
No earlier than May 30 - No later than August 23
Meets Certificate Requirement
The first seven weeks of the internship are 35 hours a week (and very flexible). During the program (August 2-12), interns - like the rest of the SJP staff - work continuously.
All of our counselors -- including the intern -- have background checks before the program begins.
Though student will be allowed to live in University housing, she/he will be responsible to pay for the room.
Getting to meet and work with all 37 of the SJP students, who came from all over the country, was a very rewarding experience.
—Mim Ra Aslaoui '18
SJP is a phenomenal program, and I can honestly say that working with this group of people was life-changing. It is a special kind of person that volunteers weeks of their time each year to help a group of extremely bright but low-income, first-generation students, and I was surrounded by these amazing people during the program.
—Caroline Limpan '19
My best work experience this summer was undoubtedly the ten days when we actually got to meet and get to know our students. They were truly what kept my co-coordinator Kat and I going; we had such an incredible, magical time as SJP students that we wanted to recreate the experience for this year's cohort. They are an inspirational, resilient, impossibly intelligent group of people from diverse backgrounds. My favorite question to ask people when I first meet them is, "Where are you from?" -- whatever this question means for the interviewee -- and I indeed received 39 fascinating answers.
—Vayne Ong '20
I think it empowers underserved groups to see the change that can happen in their communities and begin to facilitate that change. That's where I think SJP has the most impact--it takes low-income and first-gen students like myself and teaches us that our voices have an impact, and that they have a place in newsrooms and on elite college campuses.
—Kat Powell '20
I thoroughly connected with the service mission of the organization, that is, to expand college access to under-resourced communities. Likewise, the program has motivated me to perhaps pursue a career that makes a difference in the lives of young people educationally and otherwise. —Sam Aftel '20