As 2020 spiraled into mutual uncertainty for all, the idea of having an in-person gathering, let alone traditional summer experiences appeared less and less likely. Summer events like the beach, barbecues, camping and family vacations were all significantly altered, if not completely “cancelled”.
For so many students, the COVID pandemic created a sudden and palpable shift in near-term planning, including the possibility of a summer internship experience – so often a vital rite of passage. As of May, 2020, internship openings in the U.S. were 49 percent lower than the year prior (The Washington Post). With the creation of websites such as ismyinternshipcancelled.com and as similar waves of communication through social media surfaced, many had given up on participating in a summer internship experience all together. Yet, as has been the case throughout the pandemic, challenges provide opportunity for innovation and entrepreneurship.
OPPORTUNITIES BECOME MORE IMPORTANT DURING INOPPORTUNE TIMES
A core mission of Applebaum Family Philanthropy (AFP) has been to help change lives and create extraordinary experiences for individuals. Despite unexpected challenges, this pursuit became even more important during the pandemic:
We wanted to take a chance and make summer internships work for students. We already had two new in-person initiatives due to launch during the summer and as the world very quickly shifted to a digital space, we worked with our partners to revisualize these opportunities and see how they could be offered virtually.” (Pamela Applebaum, President, AFP)
AFP, through the Applebaum Fellows Program, established and repositioned two new “virtual” summer internship experiences – the Applebaum Internship Program and in partnership with Wayne State University (WSU) Honors College, the Applebaum Emerging Leadership Program.
The two programs offered the valuable opportunity for college students from metropolitan Detroit to enhance their leadership capacity, advance professional and personal skill building and enable creative exposure to the inspiring community of Detroit. In total, a cohort of 18 students were put on the frontline of Detroit organizations and in the room with change-makers, called to think critically and creatively to help strengthen the community during the pandemic.
Students from Wayne State Honors College and universities across Southeastern Michigan took part in virtual summer internships with AFP.
APPLEBAUM INTERNSHIP PROGRAM
The Applebaum Internship Program (AIP) was established in partnership with the College for Creative Studies (CCS), Detroit Historical Society (DHS), Detroit Symphony Orchestra (DSO), and Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD). Students in the AIP completed a paid, six-week, hands-on experience at the centerpiece non-profit organizations and participated in interactive and leadership roundtables with prominent industry professionals.
DEVELOPING MEANINGFUL EXPERIENCES
Round-table sessions included virtual discussions and interactions with C-Suite community leadership, Anne Parsons (DSO), Don Tuski (CCS) and Elana Rugh (DHS) who shared their rich knowledge of leadership with the students. Additional sessions provided insight into the world of Detroit philanthropy through the lens of key industry professionals Chris Harrington (DSO), Denise Thomas (CCS) and Rebecca Salimen-Witt (DHS).
Despite the circumstances, the Internship program gave us access to connect with amazing people in the nonprofit sector as well as aspiring leaders.” (Kayla Savage, College for Creative Studies – Community Arts and Partnerships Intern)
Student Interns meet CEO’s and Presidents from cohort organizations in the session, “Voices and Vision.”
Student Interns meet industry professionals from cohort organizations in the session, “Philanthropy in the City.”
ADAPTING TOWARD MAXIMIZATION
Since the original internship experience was envisioned as an in-person engagement, host organizations worked hard to adapt the opportunity to a meaningful virtual experience:
Being one of the first all remote/virtual internships, the DSO learned a lot about creating an environment for remote interns to connect, learn, and grow.” (Chris Harrington, DSO Supervisor)
Interns were also given opportunities to lead and create:
During my internship, I had a chance to work collaboratively on several projects. These experiences emphasized the importance of communication and creative thinking!” (Jade Wurst, University of Michigan – MOCAD Intern)
I was able to be in charge of all the projects given to me, which helped me develop leadership skills.” (Briayna Jordan, University of Michigan – DSO Intern)
APPLEBAUM EMERGING LEADERS PROGRAM – Wayne State University
The Applebaum Fellows Program also launched the inaugural Applebaum Emerging Leaders Program in partnership with the Honors College at WSU. The program, an eight-week, hands on paid engagement was awarded to ten WSU Honors students. Conducted through the leadership of Dean John Corvino and award-winning marketing and sales executive Nicole M. Lewis, the virtual program included key participation from business and professional community leaders.
Focusing on entrepreneurship and real-life experiences, the program helped students recognize their individual strengths, the impact of group dynamics and the importance of maximizing relationships to enhance their career. The core research project provided by local PR firm, Van Dyke Horn PR, tasked students to work together to tackle the relevant theme of “Equitable and Inclusive Engagement in the Age Of COVD-19.”
The Applebaum Program is a great way to work together in a group to complete projects that really help you understand more about non-profits, help you understand more about what you exactly want to do in life and how you can help yourself as a professional!” (Saba Dubaishi , WSU, Honors College Student)
Students from the Emerging Leaders Program present their final Guidebook to Van Dyke PR on a Zoom conference
Ultimately, opportunity combined with collaboration and creativity can help transcend challenge and obstacle, providing the necessary fuel to reimagine and redefine the limits of definition. We look forward to helping open more doors toward possibility. It sure was good to see the future walk through them.