Are you jaded by the lack of corporate responsibility, and permanently scarred by the financial scandals that rocked 2002? Looking for something more fulfilling and meaningful than “would you like fries with that?” This summer, it would be worth your while to consider an internship with a non-profit organization.

Paul Wong
The Ronald McDonald House is one option for a non-profit internship.

This isn’t going to be your standard internship.

Tthere is no mandatory suit and tie, high-powered business atmosphere or big bucks waiting for you on payday. In fact, with many of these organizations, there is no payday at all.

The benefits of working at a non-profit organization don’t stockpile in a bank, or come in the form of stock options. You’ll be working hard all summer to advance a worthwhile cause of your choice, and it could be the most rewarding four months of your life.

“Students are enamored with the internship. No matter what level you assist with, you get a chance to make a difference in someone’s life,” said Jeanette Porter, public relations manager for the Make-a-Wish Foundation. Designed to fulfill the wishes of children with life-threatening illnesses, Make-a-Wish also offers students a chance to intern in a position that is close to their educational interests.

“The practical end of it is that we are a non-profit organization, so there is always a lot of work to be done. If there is a good fit between an internship and where a student wants to learn, they can be turned over to that department,” Porter said.

Opportunities to intern and help children and families in need abound, even here in Ann Arbor. The Ann Arbor Community Center runs an eight-week summer day camp, specifically for children with Attention Deficit Disorder. The unique aspect of the AACC is that its internships can be developed expressly for the intern.

“Last summer, we had an intern develop a behavioral project; she acted in a counseling-like role, and traveled with and observed the children. We will look at the project ideas that are brought forth, and work with the intern on that,” said Helen Crigler, executive director of the AACC.

For an internship at the summer camp, a love of children is a must, and Crigler mentioned that the position is good for a student with a background in educational guidance.

Opportunites are also available for those who are more interested in political activism. The Sierra Club, an environmentally-minded interest group, offers a summer internship out of its offices in East Lansing.

“Students will do a lot of assistance with researching reports, as well as helping our grassroots organizing, specifically, with organizing members to weigh in on policy issues,” said Dan Farough, public education organizer for the Michigan Sierra Club.

The stipulation with this sort of internship is that you should share similar political goals the group for which you are working.

This being the case, these internships can be wholly enjoyable as you work to advance those ideas about which you are passionate.

“Students that we have will frequently stay on after the internship; not because they feel any obligation, but because they enjoy the work. Our interns typically have a lot of fun working with us,” Farough said.

While the structured internship may be appropriate for some students, others may prefer a more volunteer-oriented atmosphere.

The Ronald McDonald House, a support service for parents with hospitalized children, is staffed by a large number of volunteers. While RMH doesn’t offer any specific internship program, it is always in need of extra hands. The Detroit chapter has some volunteers who have been there for more than 25 years.

“We find that once people volunteer, they really make a commitment to the house. Many people completely dedicate their life to the cause,” said Jennifer Litomisky, executive director of the Detroit RMH.

Volunteers will help with a wide variety of duties, ranging from distractive tasks to actually preparing meals for the families.

Some University students already take time out of their schedules to help out at the Detroit RMH.

LSA sophomore Nina Catalflio worked there last summer and now volunteers at the Ann Arbor branch.

“It is amazing how the little tasks you do are really appreciated by the families that are staying there. Just by checking out a movie with a child, listening to a mother talk about her child or offering a hot dinner, you can put a heart-warming smile on even the most stressed out individuals,” Catalflio said.

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