Public Affairs (Non-Profit) Pre-Grad Intern Jennifer Aguirre

Jennifer AguirreWhen I first came into the IE Pre-Grad Internship I had a vague idea on what the non-profit sector did and the role they play in our community. I knew non-profits helped many people, had different goals, and raise awareness to many people. Taking this internship has broadened my views on non-profits. Rachel Veron, my IE mentor, took me under her wing and really exposed me to the world of non-profits. She also prepared me for graduate school. I was able to research many graduate schools and see what I needed to do to prepare myself for my next journey. This experience is something I will never forget because for the first time here at UT, I knew exactly what I wanted to do when I left my undergraduate studies.

Taking this internship was such an amazing experience for me because I was struggling to decide what I wanted to do after graduation. I am a psychology major here at UT, and my path was leaning towards going to graduate school for Psychology. I was not exactly thrilled with my decision but I felt that it was the right way to go if I wanted to be successful in my major. I wanted to help people and make an impact I society. I did not feel any other major would allow me to do this. In psychology, however, one had to get their Masters if they wanted to counsel. I looked in to many schools and many of them required graduate students to do research. I took a research assistant class for psychology and I decided that this route was not for me. After this, I felt somewhat lost and wondered if I had made the right choice as my major. As my sophomore year ended, I had become very pessimistic about my future.

When my junior year arrived, I was determined to venture to different areas of my study and see what I was interest in doing. I took an internship at the Humanities Institute as an assistant to a director for a non-profit called Free Minds. This changed me life. I was never really exposed to any non-profits before I took this job. I had no clue what a non-profit meant, all I knew is that they had a cause and worked hard to achieve their goals. I became fascinated with Free Minds. They took low-income adults and gave them the opportunity to go back to school for free. Their tuition, books, childcare, and transportation were provided for them as long as they were in the program. The people within this program were so motivated and dedicated to help theses people they hardly knew. It amazed me that people lie this still existed in the world. I decided this is what I wanted to do after graduation.

One day, I received an email from my advisor telling me about this program. She said it was a great way to see if graduate school was right for me. I looked into it and I took the opportunity right away. I quickly meet with my mentor and we hit the floor running! Our objectives were based on non-profit activates and graduate school research. Rachel Veron wanted to expose me to the world of non-profit. I set up numerous interviews with many directors from different non-profits here in Austin.

I met with TANO, Heart House, and Camp Fire USA. I received a lot of insight regarding non-profits. Non-profits offer a diverse selection of the careers and opportunities for graduating students. There is not a specific major or path that one has to choose in order to work in the non-profit sector. Networking is a great way to get your name out there. Going to various networking events and meeting the directors of children non-profits can hopefully lead you into an interview or future internship. This internship allowed me to break barriers and push myself to meet people who are as dedicated as me to help people who need out help.

The other section my internship was based on researching graduate programs that would ideally give the skills I need to work in non-profits. I decided that I wanted to follow my mentor's path by applying to a Master's in Public Policy. I felt this degree was very flexible and opened many opportunities to work all over. I am interested in working with non-profits and also working with the government. I believe that in order for a non-profit to succeed, they need people within the government to give them a voice. Through this internship I was received a travel grant to D.C. for a conference. I am very thankful and thrilled to be given this opportunity because I would not get the chance without this internship. I have looked into many Public Affairs programs across the nation to see which one is the right pick for me. With my mentor, I was able to have a rubric on the different criteria that I needed in order to choose the right school for me. She also helped me fill out an application to the graduate program of my choice and gave me very helpful hints on writing my personal statement. Every graduate program is very unique and different but it's up to you to really decide which one will give you the skills you need to succeed.

Struggling at a job, school, and activities has been very difficult this year. I am thankful, however, because I realized that everything I am doing is preparing me for the future. Through this internship I was able to look into the many non-profits here in Austin. I heard of Heart House through my internship at school, and I heard many great things about it.

I mentioned this program to my mentor and she also agreed on how great Heart House reached out to low-income students. Heart House is a program for low-income a child that helps them stay in school and off of the streets. Instead of offering remedial classes, Heart House challenges the students and helps them grow as a family. I very interested in becoming part of their family. I applied for a position for their summer program. I am excited to say that I was offered the position and my goal to finally work in a non-profit was achieved. I am very thankful for this internship because I would have never pushed myself to do what I wanted to do. It opened my doors for me and I will tell everyone I know about my experience with this internship and how it can indeed change you life here at UT.

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