Student Interns and Organizations Alike Are Changed by the Experience

August 9, 2012

Each summer, Wellesley students with a commitment to service have an opportunity to explore and participate in social change in the Greater Boston Area, thanks the Lumpkin Summer Institute for Service Learning. During the 10-week program, students reside together in Boston while undertaking full-time internships with local nonprofit organizations. The Institute is funded by the Lumpkin Family Endowed Fund for Service Learning.

This year's interns worked with the Boston Chinatown Neighborhood Center, Boston Community Capital, the Office of Senator Harriette L. Chandler, the Crittenton Women's Union, the Medical Legal Partnership, Renewal House, St. Francis House, and Teen Voices Inc.

The Summer Institute also includes weekly seminars facilitated by Wellesley faculty, alumnae, and local nonprofit leaders, and integrates experiential and traditional classroom learning to benefit not only the Wellesley interns, but also the communities in which they serve. Joan Wallace-Benjamin '75, CEO of the Home for Little Wanderers, kicked off this summer's weekly seminars by talking with the Lumpkin fellows about her career in Boston's nonprofit community. Other distinguished guest speakers included Ben Perkins from Fenway Community Health as well as sessions by Professors Corri Taylor and Veronica Darer. The 2012 Lumpkin Institute was led by Erin Sullivan, associate director of the Center for Work and Service, and Melissa Hawkins, program director for service at the Center for Work and Service. 

According to Sullivan, community partners have been more than enthusiastic about their experiences with the program. The director of the Moving Ahead Program at St. Francis House told her, “I'm forever grateful to Wellesley. We've been blessed to have incredible women [from Wellesley] coming to the program.”  At Boston Community Capital, the communications director was able to recall every Lumpkin fellow by name as well as the fellow's independent projects for the past several years. The director of Renewal House shared with Sullivan that she often has graduate student interns, but is reconsidering how to shape her graduate intern program, since Wellesley's Lumpkin intern "has reset the bar and it is very high!" More than one community organizer has observed that interns from other universities have been “blown out of the water” by or “paled in comparison” to their Wellesley interns.

Student interns have been equally touched by the experience. More than just something to do over the summer, the Institute has clarified career goals and introduced interns to new experiences and perspectives. Kaley Haskell ’14 (pictured) worked at the Boston Chintaown Neighborhood Center, and reflected, “These children, their stories and their personal and academic challenges, have reaffirmed my career goals in education. I leave the Lumpkin Institute of Service Learning with a new perspective on the same career path, more confident in my abilities as an educator and student. As was presented on our first day of program, the 12 miles that lies between Wellesley and inner-city Boston is a figuratively far 12 miles. The Institute has made clear that, despite this distance, a bridge can be created between the two communities with concerted effort and an open mind.”

Ace Wang '14, whose work was at St. Francis House, similarly summarized her experience: “It was so many things at once, it was heart wrenching, it gave me great strength, and a lot of fear. I cried, I laughed, and I learned much more than I imagined that I would.”

The Institute has also strengthened interns' bond with their Wellesley sisters. Emily Gell ’14, who worked with Medical Legal Partnership Boston, said, “After my experience this summer, I feel much more confident about my future as I begin to plan out my law school options and potential career paths. My overall experience with the Lumpkin Institute has been such a wonderful one, full of personal growth, networking, and the best of times with my fellow Wellesley peers whose friendships I now treasure.”