A Review A PHENND Summer Internship: A Journey Through Nonprofit Exploration.

Posted by on September 06, 2012

-By Aine Sheehan

During my time with PHENND this summer I have learned a lot about Philadelphia. Through this journey, I have learned about many of this city’s various nonprofit organizations. I have found that you get a different perspective of Philadelphia through learning about the work of nonprofits in different communities. It’s a perspective I don’t think I would have gotten of Philadelphia without an Internship opportunity that encouraged this type of exploration. The nonprofits I have researched or volunteered with, which caught my interest while in Philadelphia, deal with education issues and train college students to aid in their community-based work. Some of the nonprofits I have come across this summer might be new to you, as they were to me, so I would like to use this post as an opportunity to profile nonprofits that stood out during the course of the summer as unique in how they serve young people and their communities. I researched and profiled: the Philadelphia Youth Poetry Movement (PYPM), LIFT, and Tree House Books.

All of these organizations focus on a different interest of mine or have helped me to develop new skills. When you are searching for new extracurricular activities, volunteer opportunities or internships I encourage you to go for what you love and go outside of your comfort zone. Try tagging along with an upper-classman friend, go to a one-time event and reach out to the program coordinator, or simply do your research! Both on-campus and off-campus opportunities can be extremely beneficial, it all depends on what you need and what will push you in the right direction.

Philly Youth Poetry Movement (PYPM)
I researched this nonprofit out of curiosity. My supervisor mentioned PYPM for a possible interview, so googled them and discovered a very well covered and loved Philadelphia organization. Unfortunately, I did not have quite enough time to conduct an interview during my  Internship, but I still wanted to profile this organization and may reach out to them in the Fall as an additional volunteer opportunity for myself. Philly Youth Poetry Movement is a volunteer run organization of educators and poets. The PYPM staff create a safe space for Philadelphia teens to express themselves and talk about issues that they might not otherwise feel comfortable talking about through spoken word and literary expression. They encourage youth through free weekly workshops to enact social action and develop their own voice in both political and artistic arenas in Philadelphia. PYPM has been recognized internationally, winning Brave New Voices, the largest competitive spoken word competition in the world. If you want to see what kind of poets PYPM produces, I recommend checking out PYPM alum Joshua Bennet. His poetry is excellent, and you will no doubt feel moved when watching him perform.

LIFT is a national organization started by two Yale college students to address the need they found for more support for low income adults in New Haven. It uses college volunteers with technical skills, like being able to use a computer and navigate the internet to assist clients who need help with anything from resume building to legal assistance. The LIFT staff impress on volunteers that no one knows a client’s goals or life experiences better than the client, encouraging a working relationship between client and volunteer, so that the client can reach their short and long term goals. LIFT Philadelphia has two offices, one in North Philadelphia and the other in West Philadelphia. They have volunteers from colleges and universities all over Philadelphia, with the West Philadelphia office focusing on UPenn, Drexel, and the schools in the Western suburbs and the North Philadelphia office focuses on recruiting volunteers from Temple.

I am a LIFT volunteer in the West Philadelphia office, and it is an experience that I can’t even express accurately in words. As a volunteer, I gained the ability to work productively with strangers, realized I do not have all the answers, and found an ability to connect with people with whom I never thought I could connect. It is an experience that I would recommend to any college student looking to step out of their college comfort zone and engage with people from multiple backgrounds, while attempting to make change on a real level.

Tree House Books
If you were ever a child who enjoyed to read and escape into a world far away, then Tree House Books will probably be an organization that resonates inside you in some way. Tree House Books is an organization, according to their website,  “on a mission: grow and sustain a community of readers, writers, and thinkers in North Central Philadelphia. Packed with books and homemade art, Tree House is an after-school meeting spot for local children to explore learning in fun, creative ways that encourage a lifelong relationship with education, reading, and each other.”  Located in North Philadelphia near Temple University, Tree House Books creates an environment where literacy is fostered and encouraged and art is like a second language.

Tree House Books is an organization I hope to learn more about, because I think it opens a whole new element of North Philadelphia that I would not have been able to know about from the surface. They are close to Temple, and welcome many college volunteers to work with the organization as after-school teachers and program coordinators.

I hope to continue exploring Philadelphia through non-profits, because it gives me, as a Boston native, a way to explore the city’s resources and methods of addressing various community needs.The unique aspect of these University-community partnerships is that they are providing an experience that enriches both parties’ experience. At their best, these partnerships help college students learn skills that expand their educational horizons and community partners benefit by being able to fill needs and provide services they wouldn’t otherwise be able to.

Are there any organizations you have worked with in Philadelphia? Has there been something that changed your perspective of Philadelphia? What would you like to know more about in the Philadelphia nonprofit sector?

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