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
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
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
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