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From Generation to Generation, Internship Experiences to Take With You

It was 20 years ago last fall when I first step foot into JFCS as a Senior Service intern. 

I did not know what to expect or what impact this experience would have on me.  Reflecting back, I can honestly say this intern experience changed my life. One of my favorite aspects of being Coordinator of Teen Programs is working with interns.

I cannot thank enough what Wendy Cacacie did for me 2 decades ago. She has taught me unforgettable social work lessons that I still use to this day. My goal is to instill a meaningful experience to my interns as Wendy has done for me.

I have worked with close to 50 student interns throughout the years and continue to be amazed by their creativity and outside the box thinking with special projects.

This summer, Dana, one of my interns served on a College Perspectives Panel and talked about her college and gap year experiences. Rachel, another student, assisted in creating content and resources for the Summer Teen Programming Series. Her fresh perspectives and ideas enhanced these leadership seminars. Grace, my third intern, also created content for this summer’s programming series. She will also be helping with the Challah Bake through Challah for Hunger, a student run organization at the Center for Jewish Life at Princeton University.

These programs would not have been successful without the help and participation of these students. Working remotely has eliminated so many barriers of distance and transportation to connect with teens from all over the county. Working with Teen Programs is definitely a great filter to finding future interns.  Even though most of the students I work with have other interests, the skills learned during the internship are hard to be duplicated in other places. At JFCS, we teach our interns the ins and outs of our jobs, how to succeed in a non-profit environment, and how what we do fits into the overall agency and community as a whole. Interns walk away with an experience that they can discuss in any interview setting and transferrable work skills to include on their resume.

Celeste Albert, LCSW, Coordinator of Teen Programs

Meet Rachel!

The 2020 pandemic has had broad economic impact, so when approaching summer opportunities I knew it would be a challenge not only finding internships but also finding businesses with the bandwidth to take on interns in uncertain times. Internship opportunities for college students are very diverse, so gaining research and communication skills can be found in a range of work.

COVID-19 has shed new light on how people can transform their skills and knowledge into jobs or volunteer work that is not necessarily aligned with their career goals. In working with a nonprofit, I am gaining important skills that I will use for future intern opportunities and recognizing the benefit of being open to new experiences.

Zoom has become a common platform for communication, so even though we coult not talk or work on projects in person, weekly meetings were still comforting and informative. My weekly meetings kept me engaged in the work because it was a nice break to talk about the research instead of typing it all down in a shared document. Presenting your research to someone allows you to bounce their ideas off of yours and appreciate their satisfaction with the project that you share.

My research included mental health, educational inequalities and other politically and socially topical issues which kept me engaged in the work. I felt it was important to discuss these real world topic amongst peers to gain students’ perspectives.

In college, I study law, public policy and sociology, which all have similar themes and lessons taught within each department. As a research intern for JFCS, my projects varied, but one assignment that I found applicable to my course work focused on how students can be leaders in their communities. From organizing fundraisers, helping at a food pantry, or collecting backpacks for a school supply drive, we wanted to emphasize that students can easily be leaders and mentors in their community by inspiring others to complete acts of kindness. In my college studies, we often analyze lawyers, policymakers, local businesses, and other decision makers and how their collective acts of leadership and of kindness are inspiring others to change and do good in the world.

I am on a pre-law track in college, since I’ve always been intrigued by law school and the legal profession. Law school teaches students how to think, advocate, and analyze, and these skills can be applied to working at a law firm, a university, a hospital, or many other businesses. My internship work includes conducting research and planning lessons for the Zoom program participants. This work helped hone my research and presentation skills, skills I feel can always be practiced and improved, and skills that are critical to pursuing a legal profession.

Through my work with JFCS, I have gained awareness of the importance and impact of nonprofits in communities, especially in the midst of a global pandemic. This has inspired me to explore and reach out to other organizations to understand their mission and how people can support their work.

I have loved working with Celeste; her passion for each of the projects and assignments we’ve discussed makes her such a good leader and the students look up to her. I’ve lived in West Windsor for a long time, and have known of JFCS all my life, but contributing and volunteering with the JFCS team has been extremely rewarding. JFCS has accomplished so much with their food pantry, teen services, and counseling center, and I have been deeply impacted by this internship. I’ll always be thankful for this opportunity and the skills and connections I have found. I hope to remain involved with projects and volunteering in the future as part of JFCS.

Rachel Judson, Intern

Meet Grace!

I was originally supposed to go to Vienna for a summer class, but once that got cancelled, I was fortunate to have Princeton Hillel, Center for Jewish Life as a resource. The staff at CJL was able to connect me with JFCS for an internship opening.

This internship has exposed me to new websites and platforms and working with the unfamiliar technologies has been incredibly engaging. The work differs greatly from my studies, most often in literature and language, and allows me to explore new opportunities. Researching new topics has been exciting week after week.

I am not sure where my future plans will take me as I consider graduate work or moving into education. In any path I pursue, the experience with curriculum development, presentation, and connection with others will be valuable.

I had no idea the scope of social services in this community prior to this internship, and I am incredibly thankful to have learned more about the work done in Mercer County.

Grace Rosenberg, Intern

Meet Dana!

As a rising sophomore, yes I was extremely concerned about having limited opportunities due to the virus. All of my original plans for the summer consisted of physical work, so it was difficult for me to imagine the translation into a remote environment. Additionally, the ongoing challenges of the virus amde it difficult to imagine that summer interns would be a priority.

I have found that there are primarily two elements that have made the internship engaging: communication and meaningful work. Meeting with Celeste every week to plan and discuss ideas has been instrumental in helping me set goals and decide what work must be done. Week after week, the meaningful work that keeps me engaged.

From panel discussions to fundraising, all of the work that JFCS does is important, both for the development of the individual and the larger community. Recalling this as I work remotely motivates me, and contributes to my devotion to the projects. As a STEM major, my internship experience may not relate directly to my course work, but it does resonate with the values that are stressed by the community. Mentoring, volunteering, and service are the cornerstone of Princeton, and are taught in every discipline. My internship this summer plays on this message of service to the community.

After graduation, I intend to enter the medical or healthcare field. I am extremely thankful, as I know that everything that I have learned this summer will be applicable. Fundraising for causes, working with teenagers, or even simply planning events are all skills I have developed this summer and will continue to develop after I graduate and enter the professional sphere.  To date, the most impactful experience I have had through this position was preparing to speak to high school juniors and seniors on a panel. I remember how challenging the college process was for myself, and I can only imagine how much more stressful it must be now. I am thankful for the opportunity to speak with younger students and try to advise them the best way that I can. 

Dana Waitman, Intern

How will YOU serve your summer?

Now more than ever, there is a need for people to give back to others and community non-profits. It can sometimes be challenging and overwhelming to start. A lot of thoughts can go through your head. I am not familiar with local organizations in my community. Who do I help? How? Can my children and teens get involved? Here are some great tips to begin a meaningful summer of service.

Tip 1 Pick a cause, any cause…

There are many great ways to give back to your community.  It might be helpful to find out what causes speak to you and decide how you want to make a difference.  Here is a sample of causes to choose:

Older adults
Children/teens
Hunger
Education
Environment
Homelessness
Special needs
Advocacy
Veterans

Bullying
Animals
Domestic violence
Diversity
Poverty
Disabilities
Mental Health
Awareness

Tip 2 Decide which project you would like to conduct…

Are you interested in giving back virtually, collecting and donating items for others, hands-on community service or raising funds for non-profits?

Virtual Opportunities

With the advancement of technology, virtual community service experiences have gained popularity and you do not need to leave your house. 

Collections/Drives

Maybe you’ve been inspired to clean out unused items in your home.  Community organizations are collecting items for people in need.  Contact local social service agencies or visit their websites to see what items they are accepting.  You can also reach out to your network and let them know you are collecting items such as food, school supplies, paper products, feminine hygiene products or baby and children supplies.  An Amazon.com wish list is also another great and easy way to collect items in a contactless way.  Remember, before you collect, ask your selected agency about any specific needs or requirements for products they are currently accepting.

Hands-on Community Service Projects

 The best way to find out about these opportunities are to visit an agency’s website, contact the volunteer coordinator and follow non-profits on social media.  Due to COVID-19, these in-person opportunities can be limited, so check with the agency to see what opportunities are available.

Fundraisers
Fundraisers are another great way to support a non-profit organization while bringing awareness of the services they provide to your community. Here are some great fundraising ideas to include others in your mitzvah:

Bake sale
Bike ride
Book sale
Bowl-a-thon
Car wash
Dog walk
Dress down day at work
Garage sale
Golf tournament
Karaoke night
Lemonade Stand
Pancake breakfast
Zumbathon
Instead of hosting a party, ask for donations in honor of a milestone celebration – bar or bat mitzvah, birthday and/or anniversary

Tip 3 Seek resources to continue brainstorming ideas of fun and meaningful projects.

JFCS will be hosting two virtual service opportunities for teens in grades 6-12.

  • Sunday, July 26th, 1 PM – Come learn about school supply needs in our community and ways you can help others start the school year off right.
  • Sunday, August 9th, 1 PM – Create your own challah at home with Challah for Hunger at Princeton. Learn about food insecurity and the community organizations who are working to address it.

These programs are open to the community.  Registration is required, click to sign up now!

For more information, contact Celeste Albert at celestea@jfcsonline.org.

To learn more about other service project ideas, visit:

Good Deeds Day

Areyvut

Chai Mitzvah

Celeste Albert, LCSW (Teen Program Coordinator) & Dana Waitman (Intern)

Teen Summer Series

Where remote learning offered new challenges for all students, the upcoming summer, without the expected activities and opportunities to gather, is filled with new obstacles. JFCS is proud to be offering a TEEN SUMMER SERIES including service, engagement and development opportunities for youth and teens. All sessions are open to any youth or teen interested in attending, teens can sign up for all, some or one of the sessions per their needs and preference.

MUST REGISTER IN ADVANCE, CLICK TO REGISTER NOW!

College & Career: For Grades 11+ Career Exploration Workshop Tuesday July 7, 7 PM

If you don’t know what to do with your major, or are unsure what to study, join us!

Summer Serve: For Grades 6-12 How Will You Serve? Sunday July 12, 1 PM

Discover ways to customize your summer service experience.

College & Career: For Grades 11+ College Perspectives Monday July 20, 7 PM

A panel of college students discuss their experiences after high school.

Summer Serve: For Grades 6-12 School Supplies Drive Sunday July 26, 1 PM

Kick off event for annual school supply drive, learn about needs in our community.

College & Career: For Grades 11+ Promoting Yourself & Your Skill Set Monday Aug 3, 7 PM

An interactive workshop to build your resume and develop talking points.

Summer Serve: For Grades 6-12 Challah Bake Sunday Aug 9, 1 PM

Create your own challah at home for Challah for Hunger.

Keeping teens engaged with virtual meaningful activities

We are in a unique time in history; we have been given the gift of time. For some this might be a welcome gift, but for others we might feel bored and alone. The past few days gave me the opportunity to explore and connect with many resources I had no idea even existed.

As the Coordinator of Teen Programs, I was drawn to resources and opportunities that gave teens a way to engage in meaningful activities. The challenge is that you are responsible for creating your own journey through this challenging time.

If you open yourself up to new experiences, you might be surprised about the outcome.  

Fun things to do on Video Chat:

Virtual Lunchroom – Invite friends near and far to video chat during lunch and eat lunch together

Be a Teen Teachers – Teach others a talent that you possess

Host Zoom/Skype/Facetime Karaoke

Trivia Night – Invite your friends to play an online trivia game

Virtual Viewing Party – Pick a TV show and everyone watch it at the same time and create conversation about what you are watching. Try one of these sites for virtual viewing parties:

Virtual Board Games, try Roll 20 or Game Pigeon

Attend virtual events on one of these teen engagement sites:

Interesting sites to visit:

Take a virtual tour of Beit Hatfutsot – Museum of the Jewish People

OpenDor Media Jewish films and videos on a variety of topics

Jewish Lens

Harry Potter Escape Room

Make a difference with these virtual volunteer opportunities:

J-Serve

Good Deeds Day

Volunteer Match

Don’t forget about yourself! Here are some great resources for taking care of your mental wellbeing:

10 Cool Meditations for Teens

Mindfulness for Teens including links to free apps

Headspace (Mindfulness App)

Mandala Mood Trackers

 https://bit.ly/2Jbs4h3

 https://bit.ly/39eXyNT

 https://bit.ly/3bpWzf1

 

Favorite Articles

A Teen Support Guide to Navigating Coronavirus

83 Things To Do While Social Distancing (For Teens)

5 Ways to Help Teens Manage Anxiety About the Coronavirus

 

Tips for Teens from Teens…

“Try something new! A hobby, recipe, or skill!”

“Exercise and go for walks.”

“Do something other than spend your day online.”

“Get work done at the beginning of the day, do not put off school work.”

‘Find a new show to watch.”

“Take a deep breath and just remember that this will not last forever. Take this time to focus on your work, talk to friends when you can, and try to enjoy yourself. You will get through this.”

“This will eventually end – enjoy the time with your family.”

“Listen to music.”

“Read a book and play board games.”

Connect with Others

Check in on your friends, family and neighbors.

There are many older adults in the community who are isolated. Reach out to let them know you are thinking of them. Greenwood House would love to receive cards

Mail your cards to: Abrams Residence, 50 Walter Street, Ewing, NJ 08628

Need Help?

Contact JFCS of Greater Mercer County at 609-987-8100 or www.jfcsonline.org

Crisis Text Line-Text HOME to 741741 or https://www.crisistextline.org

And remember, we have the power to make a difference for ourselves and in the lives of others.  How will you stay engaged during this challenging time? 

 

Celeste Albert, LCSW (Teen Program Coordinator)