By Kevin Lapham, U of M Senior
Have you ever given back to your community? If not, I would recommend you read these next few paragraphs to find out how you can! Last Spring, I enrolled in a class at the University of Minnesota that would allow me to complete a summer internship related to my degree of Agricultural Communication and Marketing. Oh boy, did I ever find a great opportunity!
I started working as an intern at Second Harvest Heartland (SHH) in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Right from the start, I knew that this was an experience I would never forget. Every day, we distributed hundreds of commodity boxes to clients throughout the Twin Cities area. It was my duty to help distribute $20 farmers’ market coupons to clients, who happened to number in the thousands! Can you imagine distributing food to that many people? This gave me plenty of face-to-face interaction with clients, and a bounty of new experiences.
There were many ways that SHH gave me the opportunity to give back to the community. For one, I was providing extra nutrition to thousands of people. This felt great! The Nutrition Assistance Program ensured that the people we were serving had an income level that was well below the poverty line, so it was reassuring to know I was making a difference and giving back to the community which supports us all.
I was able to interact with people who were happy, mad, sad, bored, and depressed. This was the by far the biggest learning opportunity for me. If a client was sad, we mourned with them. If a client was happy, we celebrated with them. I also learned you can NEVER know what to expect. One day, I saw a client collapse from the heat in the drive-way. Who was the only individual to see him fall? Me. Were we trained in what to do in this situation? No. I rushed over to him and saw that his response time was very slow. I ran to the front desk and I asked that the emergency response be initiated from staff. In the end, he got back up from the ground and left with his grandson. I was so happy that he was okay, and that I had done everything I could do to ensure his safety.
It truly took everyone in the Heartland organization to ensure the success of our program. Throughout my internship, SHH staff were constantly engaging us and creating new learning opportunities. Volunteers were a huge part of my internship, and they would help us serve the clients in need. This created a new and unique social environment for me.
Do you want to improve your social skills and competency in the workplace? Then I would recommend that you find a position with Second Harvest Heartland.