Guest Post by Jessica Flynn, A&S ’15, Sociology
Coming to Villanova freshman year, I knew that I wanted to get as much work experience as possible in whatever field I chose, and that the best way to do that would be through internships. Like every new college student, I was worried about what I would do with my future and was not entirely sure what I wanted to major in, never mind a career path. In an attempt to get a better idea of what I wanted to do, I began attending panels and events on campus, and eventually, I fell in love with the non-profit field and the Make-A-Wish Foundation. By October of my freshman year, I was obsessed with the idea of working there; it was my dream internship, but one that I realized was way out of reach. Nevertheless, I began my internship search with the guidance of the Office for Undergraduate Students and was encouraged to pursue my dream, no matter how much of a stretch it seemed. After many blind emails, an informational interview, an application process, and a phone interview with a regional manager of the Make-A-Wish branch, I landed the internship of my dreams!
Starting my very first internship so early in my career as a college student was exhilarating and terrifying at the same time. Previously, I had worked for many different people, but this was something much more important. As I began the internship, however, I began to really realize that I had no reason to be nervous, as I was very capable of doing a great job for the organization. Throughout the summer, I was able to devote three days entire days, every week, to the organization and quickly moved through several different tasks. I felt that interning in the summer would allow me to have the greatest flexibility in my schedule and would help me to learn the most about the company, since many children receive their wishes in the summer.
In the beginning, my general duties included with copying, filing, and doing a lot of mailings. I began to learn how non-profits operate and was able to ask the professionals in the office many questions about their positions as well. One of the women in the office, who was a Wish Assistant, gave me a great deal of insight into the many rewards and challenges of her job and allowed me to help her with several tasks throughout my internship. My boss, the regional manager of the branch, also gave me insight into the more financial side of working for a non-profit, and I began to see how much work in that field could resemble work in any regular business as well.
Certainly the most rewarding part of my job was performing duties that directly benefited the cause of the organization. One of my most exciting assignments was writing “wish stories” for children who had already received their wishes. These ranged from getting a new puppy or swing set to meeting a celebrity to traveling to Hawaii or, to our most popular destination, Disney World. No matter what the wish, the best part of my job was searching through children’s file to write a story about them and their life changing experience of gaining their much awaited and coveted wish. These stories were then sent to donors, within a few days donation, in thank you letters. Along with this task, I was charged with filling wish boxes with teddy bears, Barbie dolls, Hot Wheels cars and many other goodies, for volunteers to take to the wish children upon their first meeting.
Though I loved all of my tasks at Make-A-Wish, the most shining moment in my internship was being a major factor in a fundraiser that raised almost $18,000 and paid for more than four wishes for local children. This event, called “Wish in the City,” was a fantastic event that featured amazing food, several models, and a silent auction that I was put in charge of. For this, I sent out a large mailing to every business I could think of asking for donations, and then collected a few to bring back to the office. Once all of the donations arrived, I was in charge of arranging the items in baskets and creating signs for them, as well as maintaining both a donor list and a guest list for the event. At the actual event, I set up the auction items around an ice sculpture and then helped to make sure everything was smooth sailing from there. This part of my job was certainly the highlight, as it helped me to see that even though I had only just completed my freshman year of college, I was even more capable of performing in a professional world than I had ever thought.
My time helping at Make-A-Wish learning the ins and outs of the non-profit world really helped me to solidify the fact that, no matter what I chose as a future career, I would be happiest if I was helping to better the lives of others in some way. This revelation also helped me to finalize my choice of major. In choosing sociology, I felt that I would leave myself open to many options for a career in the non-profit field, as well as many other social service and helping professions. My coursework in my major now directly relates to the type of job I wish to pursue, and the material I am learning is both interesting and beneficial to me. I will always be grateful for every experience I had as an intern at the Make-A-Wish Foundation and the clarity that the position afforded me.