Internships Allow Students to Apply Education to Real-Life Experiences While Serving Others

Categories: Feature, Volunteering

Article by Thomas Canary, Summer 2021 Intern

Each year, thousands of people volunteer with Catholic Charities, from spending a few hours packaging food with a scout group to taking on multiple legal cases pro bono. But there is one group that serves in yet a different way: interns.

This summer, 19 undergrads or recent graduates are volunteering as interns across 12 programs at Catholic Charities. Each is gaining experience and knowledge in a field that interests them while also making significant contributions to the agency’s mission of serving those most in need.

Like so many other things, the internship program was impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Most interns are working partially or entirely virtually. While many live in the Washington, D.C., area, some have taken advantage of the virtual nature of the internship and are serving from places across the country.

Natalie Eilerman is from Knoxville, Tenn., and studies at the University of Dayton in Ohio, but she ended up with Catholic Charities through an employee who is a Dayton alum. Eilerman is interested in a career in social work, so her time with the Family Rehousing Stabilization Program (FRSP) is relevant to her goals. FRSP helps families living in shelters to find housing and continues to work directly with them to achieve independence.

For her biggest and most impactful project this summer, Eilerman has “been working on a big Excel spreadsheet with a lot of affordable or low-income rentals in D.C. I have been getting in contact with properties and landlords to help our case workers and social workers in the future.” These connections will speed up the process of helping families to reestablish themselves and find permanent residences.

Kendra Blandon is spending her summer with Immigration Legal Services (ILS). In addition to the behind-the-scenes work that might be typical of an intern, such as drafting immigration forms, she has had the opportunity to directly serve several clients.

Blandon is fluent in Spanish and English, so she has played a critical role in helping ILS attorneys to translate evidence and other important information. She conducted interviews with one client, helping her to prepare an asylum affidavit.

A law student at Georgetown University, Blandon is assisting in the preparation of a brief for another client who has a unique set of circumstances — a case she finds particularly interesting and challenging as she will be studying immigration law next year. Although the internship will be over by the time the case goes to court in November, Blandon will have the opportunity to come back, join her collaborators and see the results of her hard work in action.

She is thankful for the opportunities and is excited that her department “wants to know how they can keep me involved and follow up on projects that I have spent so much time on.”

Christopher Scott is also with ILS. A graduate of the University of Notre Dame, he has an interest in immigration public policy, so he has found his work this summer to be enjoyable and beneficial. He has done interlingual interpretation work for an attorney and client as well as operate ILS’s busy intake phone line, which he says was “a challenging experience, but very rewarding because I had the opportunity to engage directly with potential clients.”

Scott says, “The work my coworkers and I are doing has a major impact on our clients’ lives.” Often, though, those who serve with Catholic Charities find that they have grown and benefitted from their service just as much as their clients have, and the summer interns can attest to that.

He says he “gets a very strong sense of satisfaction from the work that I’m doing and the impact I’m having. I’m so grateful that I can help other people in such a profound way.”

Of course, every Catholic Charities intern knows that the experience would not be complete without significant involvement from the program’s supervisor. Sandra Maciuba, quality assurance manager for Adult and Children Clinical Services, oversees two interns this summer: Jie Chen, an accounting master’s student at the University of Maryland, and Catalina DeSouza, a public health student at George Washington University.

Maciuba says the work done by the interns is vital to her program and directly benefits its clients. In addition, interns are “a breath of fresh air,” she says. “They bring different and new experiences and help us to try new things.” An internship with Catholic Charities gives students an opportunity to take their education and apply it to real-life experiences, all while doing important work and serving those most in need.

The summer 2021 interns are:

  • Ana Balmes, Prince George’s Community College – Family, Parish and Community Outreach
  • Kendra Blandon, Fordham University – Newcomer Network
  • Jack Brangham, Colorado College – Developmental Disabilities Services
  • Thomas Canary, University of Maryland – Communications & Marketing
  • Jie Chen, Mount St. Mary’s University – Adult and Children Clinical Services
  • Claudia Cuesta Garibay, University of the District of Columbia – Newcomer Network
  • Marion Delaney, Georgetown University – Newcomer Network
  • Chris DePiazza, Mount St. Mary’s University – Family, Parish and Community Outreach
  • Catalina DeSouza, George Washington University – Adult and Children Clinical Services
  • Rolonda Donelson, American University – Newcomer Network
  • Natalie Eilerman, University of Dayton – Housing and Homeless Services
  • Molly Fitzgerald, Virginia Tech – Family, Parish and Community Outreach
  • Daniella Karns, University of Alabama – Adult and Children Clinical Services
  • Rebecca Lavin, Catholic University of America – Adult and Children Clinical Services
  • Jeanne McConnville, University of Delaware – Adult and Children Clinical Services
  • Laura Patriarca, University of Maryland – Adult and Children Clinical Services
  • Jess Quinones, Georgetown University – Adult and Children Clinical Services
  • Christopher Scott, Georgetown University – Newcomer Network
  • Charlotte Simpson, American University – Enterprise, Education, and Employment

Thomas Canary is a senior in the Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland. A marketing and management major, he is an intern in the Communications Department.