Gaining so Much More Than College Credits

My name is Stephanie and I am a senior at Endicott College. Endicott requires that each student complete three internships in order to graduate, so I am one of the five college interns who worked for Change is Simple during the fall. The Change is Simple model relies on interns to spread its mission, but what the interns receive in return is, in my opinion, far more valuable.

When I heard about Change is Simple, I jumped on the chance to be an intern there for the semester. (Mostly because the drive from Endicott to the office is about 8 minutes on a bad day.) I had no idea what to expect going into it; I took a cursory glance at the organization’s website before starting, and that was about it. I just knew that I wanted to get a hands on experience in the nonprofit field.

Patrick had me come in for an interview in the summer, and my internship began in September. We spent about two weeks in the office preparing lessons for the upcoming elementary school year. However, preparing to teach and actually being in the classroom are two very different things. It’s hard for me to put into words the experience I had being a part of a Change is Simple lesson for the first time. I felt like one of the elementary students: I was excited and captivated by the programs and could feel the positive energy in the air. I was totally engaged from start to finish, and sympathized with the kids’ disappointment when the lesson came to an end. I was learning and having way too much fun to consider it “work.”

Now I hope that I can justly explain, in writing, something that happened that first day of teaching. I couldn’t even get through telling this story back at the office without tearing up, but hopefully typing it out will be easier; so that day the crew was teaching ‘food miles.’ Basically, they placed fruit on our huge world map and the students had to measure how far the fruit traveled to get to Massachusetts, then convert their measurements into miles. In other words, it was a whole lot of math. In one group of students, there was a girl who was visibly frustrated. She was looking at her group’s chalkboard and just wasn’t able to quite keep up with the math. Patrick, recognizing her frustration, picked her out of all of the students to complete the math problem in front of the whole class. He guided her through each step of the activity, using the real world applications to lead her through the math. My fellow interns were cheering her on, and this student eventually arrived at the right answer.

I am not exaggerating when I say I have never seen a more genuine sense of pride than when this girl got the right answer in front of her peers. Afterwards, she came over to me, looked up at me wide-eyed, and said “I never knew I was good at math!” with such pure joy. A completely different girl than I saw just minutes before. I was speechless.

Because of Change is Simple, she had this new found confidence. It became so obvious: alternate methods of teaching are absolutely necessary. How many math lessons had that student had before we came that day? And none of them had clicked? It took one Change is Simple program for her to feel excited and confident among her peers. After that day, I was passionate about working for a company that I 100% believed in. The mission hit home for me. The work I was doing was for something so much bigger than I had initially imagined.

So, as a college student about to enter the “real world”, I can’t thank Patrick and Lauren and the rest of the crew enough for this completely invaluable experience. These are lessons that I know I will carry with me through not only my professional career but my life in general. By choosing to support Change is Simple, you are supporting quality environment education for elementary students, but you are also supporting an all-around inspirational organization, one that reaches people on so many different levels and in so many different ways.