By: Nick Santangelo

Internships help students gain professional experience, discover what they like (and don’t like) about a career path, make professional connections and get hired after graduation. But not every internship is paid, and many College of Liberal Arts (CLA) students have trouble balancing that with their studies without taking on another job. That’s where programs like Pathways to Professions, which gives students a $2,000 stipend–all of which was donated by alumni and friends of CLA–while they work in a 200-hour unpaid summer internship, can help.

This past summer, over 200 students applied for the program and 30 received funding. The winning students ended up in internships at places like the Mayor’s Office of Reintegration Services, Center for Autism Research, Women Organized Against Rape, Philadelphia Insectarium and Butterfly Pavilion, United We Dream and the Reinvestment Fund. Two of those students were Deneya Gadson, a junior majoring in Criminal Justice, and Welles Trainor, a senior majoring in Political Science and Philosophy.

Getting a Foot in the Door

For her internship, Gadson worked in the Mayor’s Office of Reintegration Services (RISE) which helps incarcerated individuals return to society as successful and productive community members. While there, she helped develop a marketing plan, coordinated tabling at City Hall, visited halfway houses and shelters and more.

“We created brochures, we created flyers, a website for RISE, and we also created a project proposal on how reentry programs are important in our community,” says Gadson, “so that we can propose those to other states, because not every state has a reentry program. I feel we actually proposed the idea to Delaware, and I think they are actually considering it right now.”

But for Gadson, the best part of the internship wasn’t the work itself, as rewarding as it may have been. She says networking is something that comes easy to her, and she loved getting to do some while at RISE.

“You meet so many different people, and when they're telling you their story, they give you their overview of their academic and professional past,” she explains. “They started somewhere else and they've gotten here. It's just really inspiring to hear how someone started where I am and now they are where I'm trying to go. That's really inspiring.”

Trainor actually got involved with Pathways for Professions because of the networking he’d done with Anne Bayless of CLA’s Professional Development team. He says Bayless has “always been a good advocate” for him. He knew when she pitched him on the program that she had his best interests in mind, so he leaped at the opportunity.

It's been a really great opportunity

Once Trainor was accepted into the program, he ended up working at the PA Innocence Project, a nonprofit that works to secure exonerations for the wrongfully convicted. There, he spent his days retrieving case documents from the Criminal Justice Center and pairing off with a law student to create profile views of people’s cases to determine if their claims of innocence were valid.

Trainor jokes that he always thought lawyers and people who worked in the justice system were “not normal humans.” But he really enjoyed getting to know some of them personally, seeing the characteristics that make them successful and see how he himself could obtain similar success.

In his internship, Trainor reported to PA Innocence Project Legal Director Nilam Sanghvi. The nonprofit has employed Temple University interns since its founding in 2009, and Sanghvi oversees all the interns in her role. When it comes to Trainor, it was some of his own characteristics that convinced her to bring him on board.

“He was just super enthusiastic, was very proactive in reaching out to us and expressing his interest in being with us and in the type of work that we do,” says Sanghvi. She adds that Trainor has “an incredible work ethic” and that he was compassionate both about the cases he worked on and the people they affected. In fact, Trainor stayed on with the PA Innocence Project to continue his work with them even after his internship formally ended but before the fall semester started.

Launching Careers

Trainor found the internship to be very “hands on,” and a few of his courses helped prepare him for it by laying bare the disparities that exist in the criminal justice system. But he learned a lot about how to communicate and carry himself as a professional, soft skills that only come through real-world practice. But perhaps most importantly, the internship affirmed his belief that he wants a career in law.

“I think that I would like to be in a practice of law that does a little bit more litigating and less paper pushing,” he says. “And the only reason I say that is because litigating in post-conviction release cases is like very long and drawn-out, and you're often just waiting a lot. I think I would like to be in something a little more quick-paced, like maybe public defense.”

Trainor’s gotten some great advice from Sanghvi on how to make that career happen. She advised him to take the LSAT, taught him about exoneration cases in Pennsylvania and throughout the country and showed him what sorts of career paths a law degree would prepare him for. Sangvhi adds that the most important thing for interns like Trainor to take away, however, is the importance of the work and being diligent in reviewing it.

It’s possible to find something that you really love

In her internship, Gadson also formed a close connection with her own supervisor, RISE Internship Program Manager Gianna Grossman. The internship position Gadson wanted was actually already closed when she found it, but she wouldn’t take no for an answer, so Grossman had to give her a shot. After all, Gadson says she was “very qualified” and would have turned in her application sooner had she only discovered the opening in time. Her persistence paid off.

“She is actually a very funny story,” says Grossman. “She was incredibly persistent. She, I think, had seen an advertisement for the 2017 program instead of the 2018, and the dates were different. So, she missed the deadline to apply by like a day or something, but she called persistently for two weeks every single day. And finally I said, ‘OK. Send me your application.’”

It turned out to be a great move for both RISE and Gadson. In fact, RISE was so impressed that Gadson was offered another internship in the fall, but she’d already accepted one with Philadelphia’s Office of the District Attorney. But while her internship with RISE may be over, Gadson credits it with teaching her a lot about what she does and doesn’t want to do with the rest of her career.

“I know that I want to continue with my path of criminal justice,” she says. “However, I would consider public service, just from working in the Mayor's Office this summer. It's been a really great opportunity, and public service would be something I'm interested in. Interning this summer, that's opened my options for the future.”

Gadson credits her Criminal Justice and Criminal Justice Research courses with preparing her data evaluations and other work she performed at RISE. Now she’ll take her classroom and real world experience to another internship where she’ll build even more experience, setting her up to launch her career in summer 2019.

With hard work—and some more of that trademark perseverance—she’ll land something that’s as rewarding as it is prosperous. It is possible to get both from a career, after all. That’s a lesson Trainor learned in his internship.

“It’s possible to find something that you really love, because when I started here, I was in a major that I know wasn't really for me, and I wasn't excelling in the ways that I wanted to,” says Trainor. “But Temple really helped me find a place for myself where my interests align pretty perfectly, and as somebody with the background that I have—low income, marginalized community—I thought I had a lot of things working against me, but Temple showed me that it was really possible to get into something as big as law.”

Join us for the Leonard L. and Helena M. Mazur Alumni Networking Panel on Thursday, Oct. 4. Deneya, Welles and other Pathways to Professions recipients, along with their internship supervisors, will be in attendance to speak to the importance and value of internships.

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