Building and Strengthening Neighborhoods and People

Reflections from our summer Student Leaders

From left to right: Sha-Shonna Rogers, Zion Olibris, Laya Neelakandan, and Faith Ngundi

This summer Strong City is hosting four Bank of America Student Leaders. Our leaders are from local high schools and join 220 other students around the country in a paid, eight-week internship that includes professional development and a Student Leader Summit in Washington, D.C. With summer coming to a close, we asked the leaders to reflect on their time at Strong City. Read their words.

Sha-Shonna Rogers, Events

First, I would like to thank Bank of America-Student Leaders for this amazing opportunity to be able to partake in this internship at Strong City Baltimore. I would also like to thank Strong City Baltimore for allowing me in their space, as well as my fellow student leaders.

Throughout my time at Strong City, I have learned many things about event planning. In the beginning of my internship, when I found out that I was going to be working in the Events planning department, I was excited because I had prior experience in event planning. In the first week, I learned the basics of researching what it takes to host an event, such as venues, and then put that information in a spreadsheet. After that assignment, I caught the hang of making spreadsheets, and they became my “right hand man” along with my amazing supervisor, Ms. Dana. And, although I spent most of time on creating spreadsheets and researching, I have also seen the in-depth process of event planning that I did not know about before. For example, starting to plan for an event many months in advance and thinking about all the what-ifs. Before this internship, I had always procrastinated with planning events because I frequently  thought any event could be thrown together quickly as long as the right tools were in place. However, this internship has shown me differently and has opened my mind to different ways to plan events. I also really enjoyed seeing the different positions and roles within a nonprofit organization, like Strong City.

I really enjoyed this internship and everything that I have learned from it.

Zion Olibris, Development

My time working at Strong City Baltimore has been one of my most enriching life experiences. I have learned a wide variety of new skills and information about nonprofits that I will be able to take with me and use for the rest of my life. I have been tasked with many things, ranging from grant prospecting, to correcting errors in data entry, all the way to working on a social media campaign for the 50th anniversary.

I feel that Strong City was the best possible nonprofit to intern for because it practices fiscal sponsorship. This not only expanded my knowledge about Strong City as a nonprofit, but also allowed for me to look at the many other nonprofits that they sponsor. I learned about the different types of nonprofits that exist and how they do their work and sustain themselves. The giving nature and the helpful environment at Strong City has helped me to adapt to life at a nonprofit and expand my desire to help a wider network of people. It was inspirational to visit The Club at Collington Square, a program of Strong City, with the other student leaders. Seeing the work that the people there put in to give kids a place to go after school and during the summer showed me how important it is to educate and keep kids safe in a neighborhood that isn’t the best.

Overall, my experience at Strong City has changed my view of the way that nonprofits can affect the communities that they reside in. Though the nonprofit sector requires a lot of hard work and dedication, the impact that they have on the communities that they serve makes it worthwhile.

Laya Neelakandan, Adult Learning Center

Interning at the Adult Learning Center (ALC) this summer has been a transformative experience for me. Through the various assignments I have been given, I have learned a lot about adult education, the learners themselves, and how the nonprofit world works. I have had the privilege to see the impact literacy can have on adults, as well as their infectious joy for learning. I have learned their names, their stories, and their likes and dislikes, having had conversations ranging from the Industrial Revolution to subjects as whimsical as magic. I have enjoyed learning more about how the ALC operates, secures grants, and structures classes. My assignments have included designing a PowerPoint presentation about the ALC, making registration flyers for the fall, entering data about the learners into Excel sheets, and filing their papers. I have been able to experience every aspect of the nonprofit program.

The most rewarding part of my experience has been the people–my amazingly selfless supervisors and the incredibly kind people next door at the main office. And, of course, the learners, on whom I have seen the classes make a tangible impact.

As my internship comes to a close, I know almost all of the morning learners, and seeing their progression from addition to algebra and improving English skills has been truly gratifying. Learning how this nonprofit works has been an amazing experience, and I will definitely bring this knowledge with me as I prepare to enter the real world.

I am immensely grateful to the ALC, Strong City Baltimore, and Bank of America for this meaningful experience and for making my summer one that I will never forget.

Faith Ngundi, Project Services

This summer, I have had the distinct privilege of working at Strong City Baltimore, a nonprofit organization that has boosted my capacity to effect real-world change, as it does for so many in Baltimore. One main responsibility guided all of the wide-ranging tasks I completed: help improve communications between Strong City and its initiatives.

Before I could fulfill this responsibility, I needed to understand the essence of Strong City Baltimore. I met my supervisor, Director of Operations Tyson Garith, who introduced me to the concept of fiscal sponsorship through the book Fiscal Sponsorship: 6 Ways to Do it Right by Gregory L. Colvin. This was the foundation on which my understanding of the role and benefits of fiscal sponsorship was built. Following this introduction, I was encouraged to sit in on a meeting with project leaders to discuss an upcoming event. I grew to appreciate the organization’s role as capacity-builders that support valuable and enriching community work.

Over the past 7 weeks, I have accomplished numerous communications-related tasks, including: analyzing the weekly Resource Email to all initiatives, reviewing initiatives’ web presence, sending staff emails, joining meetings, conferencing with project leaders, and updating resource pages. I helped kickstart a project through Listen4Good, a program that guides organizations in executing a client feedback process to improve social relations. Under Assistant Director of Operations Kim Lillig’s direction, I created a staff survey, client survey, and Strong City feedback process timeline. Although I have thoroughly enjoyed much of my work here, this assignment was the most exciting.

To say my time at Strong City has been a teaching experience would be an understatement. I have learned, I have empathized, I have connected; but most of all, I have been challenged as both an employee and as a person, an experience for which I am extremely grateful.