By Sarah Jennings ’21
Funding Source: Summer Serve Internship
I have enjoyed my first month interning with Bucks County Women’s Advocacy Coalition (BCWAC), and I have already learned so much about advocacy, women’s issues, and operating a nonprofit organization. BCWAC is a non-partisan coalition of over 300 Bucks County individuals and 45 non-profit organizations that speak with one voice to serve women and families. Through education and advocacy, BCWAC promotes systemic public and private reform to foster gender equity and economic security for all. The Coalition does not often have interns, so it has been a unique and valuable opportunity to be able to work with my supervisor, the President of the organization, to build a meaningful experience where I can make a difference for the Coalition and our community. Members of BCWAC view the organization at a crossroads, and many have expressed excitement about having me on as the Coalition launches a new chapter in its history. My internship centers around surveying Board members and Coalition partners to better understand their experience in advocacy and needs from the Coalition going forward, assisting with strategic work on expanding the Safety Net as amplified by the pandemic, heading a project of archiving Coalition’s historical data, and launching new initiatives that address needs for the organization as communicated in my conversations with BCWAC leaders.
Many conversations and meetings with members of Coalition over the past month have given me the opportunity to learn about issues impacting my community, how organizations function from the inside out, and approaches to advocacy and leadership. I have been fortunate to engage with many bright, experienced women with expertise in livable wage, reproductive rights, access to education, environmental justice, the cliff effect, and more. Many mention being first pulled into advocacy during movements such as Women’s Liberation and the ERA and peace protests against the Vietnam War. As one woman expressed, policy advocacy is a marathon, not a sprint. While these women have seen some victories over time in the work of BCWAC and on a national scale, clearly there is so much work still to be done in collaborating to actively challenge systemic injustice.
I recognize that I am fortunate to have this opportunity during a summer where so much has been uncertain or canceled. In terms of recommendations for finding an internship, I definitely suggest utilizing the CCPA support. My resume needed updating, and CCPA advisors were super helpful in supporting how I restructured my resume to focus on my college career. I also met with an advisor as I began my internship search, and they offered me great strategies geared towards my interests and learning goals. For nonprofits, I began my search using idealist.org, where you can narrow by issue area and location. I always research the organization of interest before reaching out, as I think it’s important to be able to speak to what excites you about the opportunity and the work they do. I did not get much response back at first, but it was important that I stuck with it, and I’m happy with the opportunity I landed on. Lastly, I recommend communicating clearly with your internship supervisor at the start about what each side wants to get out of the experience. I really appreciate that my supervisor was super responsive to my thoughts and has tried to cater my internship experience to my strengths, interests, and goals. I am grateful for the Haverford Summer Serve opportunity for providing funding to allow me to spend a summer serving my community and learning about structural social change.