During My Internship at WCA…

This post was authored by our 2017 Cornell University Blumenthal Intern, Lauren Woods. Lauren is a rising junior majoring in industrial and labor relations. She is currently on a pre-law track, and wishes to attend law school after graduation. Lauren grew up in White Plains, NY. WCA was very lucky to have such a hard-working, competent young person in our offices this summer.

During my internship at the Westchester Children’s Association, I was fortunate enough to get an introduction to the nonprofit world, as well as, to the field of child-focused public policy and advocacy. Despite being a White Plains native, I was shocked by all the things WCA taught me about Westchester County. WCA provided me an experience that taught me many valuable lessons that I know will stay with me as I continue on my path of career development.

The exposure and experience that I received from WCA has proven to be extremely invaluable. From my first day at the office, I immediately jumped into some of WCA’s major issue work. For instance, on my first day I sat in on a meeting at the New York State Department of Labor, where I was able to learn more about the READI initiative, a curriculum and business-driven strategy that aims to prepare youth for entering the workplace.

Caroline, on the left and post author, Lauren on the right. Both awesome interns!

My largest project was helping to organize and facilitate the fourth annual WCA Summer Celebration. The event celebrated the passing of the Raise the Age Legislation in New York State, and was a great way to raise awareness of what still needs to be done!  I also completed a variety of smaller projects, which included distributing home visiting reports and the 2017 Data Bulletin to elected officials, community partners, school superintendents, and others. I also analyzed various human resource succession plans from different organizations. These detailed the necessary steps needed in a situation where the executive director steps down.  I picked out different components from each of these plans in order to prepare a template that WCA could use when carrying out its own succession plan.  There were many other smaller and more spontaneous assignments that I had the opportunity to work on, including compiling data spreadsheets for fundraising purposes.

Gaining Exposure

I believe the social interaction piece had the largest impact on my summer experience.  I was able to interact and learn from professionals from a variety of different fields, stemming from social work to education to advocacy to law!  From sitting in on Raise the Age conference calls to WCA Board meetings, I was able to exercise new forms of thinking that I never tried before. Direct immersion in environments with these professionals allowed me to learn about different fields, as well as, reflect on what I may want to do in the future.  I also gained a lot of experience in outreach by calling and speaking to past donors, community partners, and elected officials. This component greatly strengthened my communication skills.

Collective Impact

I did not hear the phrase “collective impact” until I came to WCA. Now, I know it is a concept that refers to collaboration among different organizations, community groups, governments, businesses, and others in order to achieve a common goal.  Not only does it apply to one of WCA’s specific initiatives GPS4Kids, it also characterizes the organization as a whole. WCA frequently works and collaborates with nonprofits in the Westchester area, as well as with elected officials and others. By doing this, WCA has been able to have large positive impacts on many of the communities it works with. My biggest takeaway is that all nonprofit organizations should aim to make a collective impact in order to achieve their overall goals.

While WCA is Small…

While WCA is a small nonprofit with only eight full-time staff members, its influence on the Westchester County community is significant.  It was a pleasure getting to know and working with the staff for the past ten weeks, and I know that I will continue to keep an eye out to see what WCA does in the future.