Summer Internship Series #11

Our eleventh internship post comes from Carmen, MPP accelerated 2014.
Last summer I was able to study children – their ferociousness when you gave all four boys Nerf guns, their excitement when it was time for a “top down” convertible ride, and their agitation when you herded them all to a museum (had to please Mom at least once).
This summer I also was able to study children, albeit in a much different vein. I chose to intern at the Jacksonville Public Education Fund in Jacksonville, FL. The Jacksonville Public Education Fund, known as JPEF, is a seven year old nonprofit dedicated to creating universally high-quality public schools in Duval County. The core components of JPEF are advocacy, community mobilization, and research. Even in their fledgling years, JPEF has made huge waves. In fact, one of our researchers Jason Rose was asked to attend a conference in Tallahassee this summer to help the State Board of Education work on a new state grading policy. JPEF was also heavily involved in educating Duval County citizens in the superintendent selection process this past year.
My role was under Advocacy & Communications as a policy writer. I spent most of the summer researching and working on advocacy campaigns. I learned best methods for a nonprofit to approach advocacy, as well as specific legal rights a 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(h) had in lobbying. Throughout the internship I drafted an official advocacy framework, which I presented to the Board at the closure of my stint. We hosted an educational pep rally for all of Duval County in conjunction with WJCT and the mayor’s office. I also attended local conferences such as the Nonprofit Center’s Community Excellence series. In addition, I was asked to lead a Design Thinking seminar for the staff. After the lecture I directed a lab with all the team members recreating the office space in order to prepare for the seven new staff members joining this fall.
The staff camaraderie at JPEF was my favorite part of the entire experience. I’ve worked in small nonprofit settings before, but was thrilled to see how seamlessly these coworkers cooperated. We rung in my 22nd birthday one Friday with an obnoxious pink cake (also stuffed with fruit. All my choosing) and the whole team wore birthday hats and sung. We closed each team meeting by playing “Pass the Pig,” a die game where the 1st place winner received a golden pig to display at their desk all week, while the 2nd place winner got a mutilated pig holding a sword (these people have my kind of humor for sure).
This experience meant so much to me because I got to meet people who benefited from our policy work. I was able to hug children that now had better educational opportunities and were excited to head back this August. I was able to meet parents and teachers, and see the difference our work was having on the community.
Sometimes the broad umbrella of “policy” can seem heavy and overwhelming. It’s often hard to convey and carries an air of seriousness. But really, we’re all here at Batten just trying to make the world a little bit better, a little bit brighter.
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