2017 Tarver Interns Report on a Transformative Summer

Service and experiential learning are key components of the Marist educational experience, and for the fourth consecutive year, the Tarver Summer Internship program has given undergraduates the opportunity to work on a community improvement project by interning at a local non-profit organization.  On October 18, the Center for Civic Engagement and Leadership (CCEL) held a special luncheon to celebrate the 2017 Marie and Rupert Tarver Summer Interns and hear more about their life-changing experiences. 

Directed by Professional Lecturer in Political Science Melissa Gaeke, the CCEL connects students to their community by providing volunteer opportunities, internships, student employment, and Community Based Learning classes.  The Tarver Intern program honors the exceptional accomplishments of local community leader Marie Tarver and her husband, the late Rupert Tarver, a renowned civil rights pioneer in the Hudson River Valley.  Student participants receive a stipend, three tuition credits, and on-campus housing for the summer.  Tarver Interns work closely with their Marist faculty sponsor and non-profit site supervisor to design an internship project, identify the key issues their work will address, and complete agreed-upon goals and objectives.  This year’s faculty mentors were Senior Professional Lecturer of Public Relations Jennie Donohue, Assistant Professor of Spanish Patricia Ferrer-Medina, and Associate Professor of Social Work Daria Hanssen.    Tarver students & Melissa Gaeke

Annie Callaghan ’18, a social work major from Ridgewood, New Jersey, spent the summer working with Family Services, Inc. in sexual violence prevention.  Inspired by Marist’s Mentors in Violence Prevention (MVP) program, Annie worked with a group of Upward Bound teenagers from Poughkeepsie and Newburgh on a social campaign of positive messages entitled #ReframeReflectRespect.  “I learned how important it is to give a platform and a voice to these students, and I also learned a lot about myself,” she said.  Annie’s goal is to obtain a master’s in social work and continue her efforts in sexual violence prevention. 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                             2017 Tarver interns with CCEL Director Melissa Gaeke                                                                                        
Political science major Diana Carballo-Chanfón ’18 of Lake Forest, California worked with Rural and Migrant Ministry on a project entitled “Adelante Student Voices,” which created a safe space for undocumented teenagers from rural New York.  Diana lived and worked with the students to help them learn about attending and affording college; under her mentorship, each student had to come up with an action plan for pursuing higher education.  Said Diana, “This summer only confirmed my desire to go to graduate school and study development.” 

Ian Krout ’18, an environmental science major from Warrington, Pennsylvania, explored his passion for conservation working with Hudson River Sloop Clearwater.  His goal was to use the organization’s boat as an environmental education and advocacy program.  Ian’s activities included creating a lesson plan on microplastics for grade school children and designing an interactive display for the annual Clearwater Festival.  “It was great to see kids caring about the environment,” he said, “and I also learned that I have a passion not only for science but for communicating scientific research to the general public.”  Ian is applying for a Fulbright at the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom and plans to obtain a doctorate degree. 

Eliza Patterson ’18, a political science major from Storrs Mansfield, Connecticut, spent the summer as a public relations intern at Mental Health America of Dutchess County.  With a focus on social media, Eliza created a series of photos paired with inspirational quotes, as well as a newsletter for crisis intervention workers.  She also created a mental health curriculum to help teenagers learn coping skills; the curriculum was based on the emotions in the animated film Inside Out.  Now a program assistant at Mental Health America, Eliza plans to enroll in Marist’s Master of Public Administration after graduation.  She added, “My summer internship only solidified my interest in healthcare administration.” 

English major Riana Ramirez ’18 of New York City worked directly with immigrants at Catholic Charities of Dutchess County.  She had the opportunity to help with a community legal clinic and ESL courses, as well as educating the immigrant community on benefits, work authorization, civil rights, and other topics.  Said Riana, “I saw the impact my work had on people, knowing that they have rights no matter their immigration status.”  Her main project was to create an English/Spanish community resource guide for Catholic Charities that their clients could use.  Ideally, after graduation she would love to work with marginalized populations to provide them with the resources and services they need.  Riana added, “My experience shows that English majors can do anything!” 

Abby Ritson '18, a psychology/special education major from Simsbury, Connecticut, interned at the Children’s Home of Poughkeepsie, which provides residential foster care.  Through the Independent Living Skills program, Abby taught teenage girls about nutrition and cooking and helped them develop self-esteem and teamwork skills through scrapbooking.  By the end of the summer, she had created a life skills curriculum that can be used by future interns.  Asked what she had learned, Abby responded, “This experience has made me a stronger educator.  I better understand the challenges these girls face, including a lack of positive adult relationships in their lives.  I hope they’ll always retain the positive memories we created.” 

Finally, Katy Zielinski '18, a political science and public relations major from Bethany, Connecticut, talked about her community-building experience working with Hudson River Housing, Inc.  Specifically, Katy supported the Middle Main Initiative’s efforts to make Poughkeepsie’s Main Street a vibrant neighborhood of choice.  Her goals were to teach people the importance of knowing and caring about your neighbors, which is really the basis of a democracy.  She conducted a stakeholder survey, interviewing 100 residents, and created a flyer with quotes from the survey and profiles of neighborhood people.  Emphasizing her belief in the power of community, Katy added, “Moving toward a less polarized country starts locally.” 

2017 Tarver Interns2017 Tarver Interns (l-r): Ian Krout, Diana Carballo-Chanfón, Riana Ramirez, Katy Zielinski, Annie Callaghan, Abby Ritson, and Eliza Patterson

In his remarks to the gathering, Dean of the School of Liberal Arts Marty Shaffer reiterated the philosophy behind the program, “No matter what your field, you can make a difference in the community.”  And, he added, Tarver interns have gone on to receive Fulbright grants and to attend graduate schools like the University of Michigan and the Columbia School of Social Work.  According to CCEL Director Melissa Gaeke, “The students work so hard all summer and end up learning so much about themselves and their aspirations.  It’s a beneficial and transformative experience.”

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