Tarver Interns Put Community-Based Learning Into Action
October 8, 2019—“A life-changing experience.” That’s how Emily Satin ’20 described her summer as a Tarver Intern, and certainly the Tarver Summer Internship Program is a high-impact learning experience whose effects are felt for years afterward, both by the student interns and by the local community members they serve. Since 2014, a total of 34 Tarver Interns have worked with 15 nonprofit organizations from across the Hudson River Valley, contributing 8,704 hours of service. Tarver alumni have gone on to great success, including Fulbright awards, graduate programs at Columbia and University of Michigan, and careers at Doctors Without Borders.
Here’s how it works. Under the direction of Marist’s Center for Civic Engagement and Leadership (CCEL), students from a variety of academic disciplines receive an eight-week paid internship to work over the summer with a local nonprofit. The expectation is that the student will work on a project that leaves something tangible for the organization. In return, the students gain real-world experience that prepares them for the future. In recent years, six students have received Tarver Internships annually, but a grant from the John Ben Snow Foundation made it possible for 10 students to have this experience in 2019. The students live together on the Marist campus as a cohort and take a three-credit course with Melissa Gaeke, CCEL Director. In addition, faculty mentors work closely with the students during the course of their internships; this year, Associate Professor of Social Work Daria Hanssen, Associate Professor of Political Science Jessica Boscarino, and Assistant Professor of Spanish Patricia Ferrer served in that crucial advisory role.
Tarver Intern Emily Satin
Satin, a psychology major from Albany, New York, spent the summer at Family Services’ Children’s Center helping to engage children in positive activities. Her project addressed the lack of resources for children with special needs in particular. Satin identified grant opportunities that would allow Family Services staff to purchase sensory toys and equipment to use in the Children’s Center, allowing all kids to benefit from expressive art, drama, and sand therapy. Satin called the faculty guidance and support she received “immeasurable” and noted that her site supervisors provided her with “insight, mentorship, and career advice.” The opportunity to become comfortable in a work setting, challenge herself intellectually, and immerse herself in public issues was enriching. “It provided a real sense of clarity for the future.”
Angelica Radomski ’21, a political science major from Massapequa, New York, worked with Mental Health America (MHA) of Dutchess County and called her experience “unlike any internship I have ever had or even heard of.” Over the summer, she supported MHA’s Communications and Development Department by creating content for the organization’s social media accounts. She also envisioned and planned a community event called Take 5 Wellness Festival, a family-friendly event where members of the community could take a mental health day while learning about services and resources in the community. She even secured financial and other in-kind resources to make the event possible. Said Radomski, “With the support of faculty from Marist and staff from MHA, I was able to fully step out of my comfort zone and take on a project that strengthened my communication, organizational, and leadership skills.”
Tarver Intern Hasion Gaston
Hasion Gaston ’20, a social work major from Hartford, Connecticut, interned with Marist’s Liberty Partnerships Program (LPP), which provides comprehensive services to meet the academic, social, emotional, and career needs of at-risk students. LPP seeks to successfully transition 341 Poughkeepsie City School District students (grades 5-12) into graduates who are equipped to handle the rigors of college and the demands of the competitive workforce. As part of his work, Gaston created a series of social-emotional workshops for the youth served by LPP’s summer programming. He facilitated eight seminars ranging from value trees to personal reflections on leadership to vision boards. Reflecting on his experience, Gaston said, “Many words come to mind when I think of my experience as a Tarver Intern. Of them all, insight, exposure, and clarity best describe my journey.”
Tarver Intern Abigail Villafana
For Abigail Villafana ’20, a criminal justice and psychology major from Minneapolis, Minnesota, the Tarver Internship Program “allowed [her] to grow in ways that I could not have imagined.” Working with Nubian Directions, which provides youth and adults with technology training and other workforce skills, her “Operation Fox Den” project had a lasting impact. Villafana worked to transform a crowded storage basement into a game room and lounge area for the students served by the nonprofit. Launching a campaign to collect funds and needed items, she raised nearly $600 and several hundred dollars’ worth of furniture and décor. Apart from this project, Villafana especially enjoyed the academic aspect of her summer internship: “Within the classroom, there was always encouragement to dive deeper into topics and concepts that interested us as students, which made the experience very personal.”
Tarver Intern Louis Higuera
Louis Higuera ’20, a political science and philosophy major from Pittsfield, Massachusetts, said that his Tarver experience “helped refine my career goals and provided context to my academic work.” Higuera spent the summer at Literacy Connections of the Hudson Valley, which provides tutoring services to adults and young people struggling with literacy. His project began as an outreach initiative for Latinx/Hispanic learners and developed into a larger project to recruit students and tutors to help expand Literacy Connections’ adult reading and ESL programs. Higuera helped create a plan for partner organizations to start a referral program for both students and volunteers, and he plans to continue his work by implementing assessment surveys and by expanding the organization’s social media presence.
Melissa Gaeke, CCEL Director
Under Gaeke’s direction, the CCEL is busy all year round developing a new generation of civic-minded and service-oriented leaders. According to Gaeke, “Both Marist faculty and our community partners are crucial to our work, allowing us to create community-based learning classes that enrich the Marist curriculum and give students the chance for experiential learning. Last year, there were 32 classes with a community component, and that number keeps increasing.” To further connect students with the nonprofit world, she is planning a Nonprofit Career Conference on October 26, which will help students build their networks by meeting alumni and other professionals working in the sector. It’s just another way in which the CCEL is helping Marist students explore careers while building the nonprofit pipeline.