Summer 2014 Intern Blog Posts

Rollins students intern in many different locations during the summer months.  We have asked two Rollins students who received the 2014 LGBT Advocacy Internship grants from the Johnson Family Foundation to share their internship experience with others by periodically posting blogs, chronicling their summer internship experience.  Their blog submissions are listed below.


Final Blog Post  (August 13, 2014)

Hanna Cody @ Supporting and Mentoring Youth Advocates and Leaders (SMYAL) in Washington, DC

As I sit on the plane heading back to Minnesota, I can’t help but realize how wonderfully unexpected these past two months have been.  I came to Washington D.C. excited, but completely unaware of how transformative this summer would be.  My time at American University and SMYAL has helped me grow in my strengths as well as confidence.  A week ago I successfully executed a donor cultivation event that I planned from start to finish all on my own; I have watched a taping of Meet the Press; I had breakfast with Senator Al Franken; I was quoted in Tagg Magazine, DC’s premiere lesbian publication; and I 06.29.14_002met countless amazing people, including my wonderful roommate.  I loved my time here so much that I will be returning to American University as a participant in their Washington Semester Program for the fall.  I could not be happier to return to this incredible city in three weeks.  I honestly don’t know if I could ever sufficiently put into the words the experiences I’ve had and the lessons that I’ve learned this summer, but for the purposes of this blog, I will do my best to summarize.

This summer, I have learned that:

  • Laughing makes you a better advocate. It can be easy to get bogged down, worn out or take yourself too seriously, and though putting in late hours at work can be good, being too tired to function isn’t.  Taking care of yourself by taking time off work, or stopping to laugh with your coworkers gives you the energy to do your job better.
  • We are very far from equality.  My last weeks at SMYAL heavily focused on finding ways to engage queer women to become donors and get involved in supporting SMYAL’s programs.  As we continued to brainstorm, it became increasingly evident that women were not involved in SMYAL, not for a lack of interest, but because our system (and probably the LGBT advocacy movement at large) was heavily geared towards supporting the needs of gay men.  Even though our society is making strides towards equality, it is obvious that much more needs to be done to make sure that no one, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender, is underrepresented or ignored.
  • NevIMG_5194er pass up the chance to build a relationship. When working in any field, it’s inevitable that you’ll have to interact with people.  It never hurts to take some time to grab coffee, learn more and start establishing a good relationship for the future.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for advice.  Most people want to see you succeed and are more than willing to tell you about their experience.  Take time to reach out and ask someone about the path they took to where they are today.

These lessons are applicable to anyone, anywhere, at any age or in any field, so I would hope that any student reading this would take some of this advice to heart.  As I conclude this blog post and my trip, I have to thank everyone who made this possible either by conducting interviews, answering my never-ending stream of questions, or just assuring me that I would some day conquer the Metro (in case you’re wondering, I only got lost a few times… a week).  This couldn’t have been possible without you, and for that I am extremely grateful.


Second Blog Post  (July 8, 2014)

Hanna Cody @ Supporting and Mentoring Youth Advocates and Leaders (SMYAL) in Washington, DC

photo 1As the saying goes, time always flies when you’re having fun. It seems like it was only yesterday that Sabrina and I were moving into the Berkshires and coming home excited after our first days at work. Within a short four weeks, I can already see the growth that has occurred since I entered the Washington Summer Internship program. Just like anyone starting something new, you always begin doubting yourself at first; you question every single one of your actions and always look for confirmation that you haven’t committed some horrible mistake that would to bring your entire workplace to shambles. When I first started at SMYAL, I can safely say that I was that tentative person who wasn’t always confident of her work or abilities. Though I still have doubts, I feel much more confident in my abilities and knowledge. If my boss had told me at the beginning of the summer to plan a donor fundraising event to rejuvenate the Women for SMYAL program all on my own I probably would have panicked. Now, I feel capable and prepared to put together a donor cultivation event all on my own.

Besides an increased level of confidence, my experience with SMYAL has given me an invaluable insight and set of skills that I know will follow me far into the future. I have honed my design skills by designing a series of promotional fliers outlining SMYAL’s programs; I have learned to become more flexible by working in an environment where every day is a new adventure; I have started to understand the importance of trusting my own voice and taking risks. Every day I learn something new and have developed innumerable skills that will surely help me become a more well rounded person in the coming years. When I return to Rollins, I hope to be a better leader and community member who will continue to enhance our campus and create an atmosphere that strives for academic excellence and responsible leadership.

With my remaining four weeks, I hope to continue working hard and learning more. As well, I hope to make more connections, especially with members of the LGBT advocacy community. Since SMYAL is an organization that focuses on LGBTQ youth, it is exciting to know that I am most likely interacting with the future leaders of the LGBT rights movement (such as the students at Wilson High School); not only am I spending every day interacting with the leaders who are changing D.C. and our world for the better, but I am also witnessing the creation of a new generation of advocates. Though we don’t know what will come of the SMYAL youth, I am sure that they are on the brink of creating amazing changes some day soon (or maybe even now). In my mind, nothing gets much more exciting than that.


Sabrina Kent, National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC) in Washington, DC

photo 3As my time here in DC continues, I continue to grow as a professional. I have felt myself become more comfortable with taking on ambiguous tasks without much direction and finding positive results. My supervisor has an invested interest in NGLCC’s interns continued growth and success during our time at the organization. In order to monitor my growth as a professional, each week I write a detailed report of the projects that I am working on, how I feel I am growing at NGLCC, and what I seek to be challenged by in my internship; this system has encouraged me to be accountable for the growth I am achieving. I have recently been working on becoming a business-oriented, succinct writer, which my supervisor has encouraged and guided me through.

As the 11th Annual NGLCC National Business and Leadership Conference gets nearer, I am becoming more invested and proud of the work I am contributing to the conference’s success. One of my biggest tasks has been to organize our conference program book, which will roll out into production next week. After tirelessly working on collecting advertisements from our corporate sponsors and LGBT business enterprises (LGBTBEs), a multi-week effort, I can proudly say that the book, one of the biggest and most stressful pre-conference tasks, is almost complete. I am greatly looking forward to seeing the finished result.

I am looking forward to bringing my comprehensive event planning knowledge back to Rollins to, not only contribute to campus involvement and leadership, but to positively enhance the LGBT community at Rollins. I specifically feel inspired to take on large-scale events, such as a conference, that would provide a safe space to talk across difference and engage in hands-on approaches to strengthening our community.

In the coming weeks I will be meeting with Parag Mehta, who I was put in contact with by Dr. Accapadi, to learn more about what he has accomplished in the field of LGBT advocacy and to gain advice on how to be the best leader and professional I can. I am also incredibly fortunate to work in an office filled with pioneers of the LGBT economic advancement movement, Justin Nelson, Chance Mitchell, Victoria Fulkerson, and Sam McClure, to name a few.

It is hard to believe that I have only been in DC for a month and in just a few short weeks I will be gone. My time here thus far has been nothing short of valuable. I am looking forward to seeing myself grow as a professional and as a leader. The skills that I have already gained will follow me back to Rollins to positively affect change in our community.


First Blog Post  (June 16, 2014)

Hanna Cody @ Supporting and Mentoring Youth Advocates and Leaders (SMYAL) in Washington, DCIMG_4936

As I looked out the window from my plane, the beauty of the city immediately surprised me. I could see the Washington Monument out of my window, and as we descended into Reagan, I could not believe that I was about to spend the summer in the nation’s capitol. It quickly became apparent that the city was both an exciting and welcoming place. I met with my fellow classmates during American University’s orientation to debrief what our class, Community and Social Change, was going to be like over the next eight weeks.  Our professor immediately made it apparent that he wanted to make the class as beneficial as possible and promised to design classes that got us off campus and out into the “real” D.C. We made wish lists of all the things we wanted to do or people that we would like to meet while in the city and presented those ideas to our fellow classmates. From there, our professor has begun to compile a personalized itinerary for the remainder of the summer, which started out with a trip to the British Ambassador’s home for a gathering, celebrating the launch of the summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict. The evening was truly unforgettable and it was awe-inspiring to hear the ambassador speak, let alone see the inside of his home.

My internship has been an equally amazing experience thus far. I met with Sara Conklin, the Development Coordinator at Supporting and Mentor Youth Advocates and Leaders (SMYAL) to discuss my internship and was immediately taken away by her warmth and enthusiasm. She introduced me to the SMYAL staff and gave me a tour of the SMYAL space, located in Eastern Market. As the Special Projects intern, I will be working closely with Sara to begin the preliminary stages of planning the annual Fall Brunch. This is the organization’s largest fundraiser and hosts about 600 guests for a morning of food, fun and philanthropy. Specifically, I will be aiding Sara in compiling items for the silent and live auction components of the brunch. As well, I will be helping Sara create a podcast series in honor of SMYAL’s 30th anniversary, which will be comprised of oral interviews from SMYAL alumni. Sara is also hoping to teach me proper etiquette when talking to potential donors as well as giving me an inside look into the role that development plays in the sustainability and success of an organization.

IMG_4962SMYAL specifically focuses on supporting LGBTQ youth through education and social programming. Thus, the organization is lucky to have a strong group of enthusiastic and active members between the ages of 13 and 21 who are excited to get out into their communities to make a difference. This became extremely obvious during Pride Weekend, which took place June 6 – 8. For the parade the youth worked extremely hard to make a huge float decorated as a birthday cake in honor of the 30th anniversary. About 40 youth marched in the parade with banners, posters decorated as birthday candles and (of course) lots of glitter. The next day, SMYAL hosted a photo booth at the Pride Festival. They encouraged participants to write statements on chalkboards about “What makes you SMYAL” or “How are you queer and now.” We had an amazing turnout for the photo booth, and I had a great time experiencing my first Pride weekend.

When I am not busy working at SMYAL, I have been able to visit the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History as well as the Washington Monument. Sabrina (the other Summer 2014 LGBT Advocacy Ally from Rollins) and I have made it a mission to tour the best of D.C’s culinary culture and are planning a trip to Adams Morgan in the near future. One of our assignments from class is to gather at least five business cards from professionals that we may meet throughout the summer; however, our class has turned this into a friendly competition to see who can get the most business cards by the end the time class ends. Right now my prospects of winning are not looking too good, but I’m hoping to catch up as the summer continues, and I continue to network with SMYAL board members and donors. At this point, I am incredibly excited about what the summer has to offer and cannot wait to continue my adventures in the D.C.


Sabrina Kent, National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC) in Washington, DC

We’ve only been in DC for two weeks and already this experience has been better than I had ever expected it could be. I’ve already made it a point to embark on my fair share of tourism. The first night that I got here I went to the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument and last Monday on my afternoon off Hanna and I explored the Smithsonian’s Museum of Natural History. This summer I am serving as the Meetings and Education intern at the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC) here in DC. Not only do I work less than a block away from the White House in the old National Securities Building (how surreal!), but I instantly felt at home in the positive work environment that I was thrust into just two short weeks ago.H and S at British Ambassodor reception

The NGLCC serves the LGBT business community by connecting LGBT Business Enterprises (LGBTEs), business owners, employees, and entrepreneurs with the chamber’s corporate partners (Wells Fargo, American Airlines, IBM, to name a few) to expand the economic opportunity and advancement of LGBT equality in the workplace. In 2002, the founders, Justin Nelson and Chance Mitchell, sought a solution to the economic inequalities that LGBT small business owners (in particular) face in a capitalist America.

Each year the NGLCC hosts the National Business and Leadership Conference somewhere in the United States. As the Meetings and Events Intern, it is my responsibility to help with the preparations for this year’s conference. The 11th Annual NGLCC National Business and Leadership Conference will take place in Las Vegas, Nevada at Caesars Palace from July 29 to August 1, 2014. In just the few short weeks that I’ve been at the NGLCC, preparing for the conference has been my top priority. Thus far, I’ve been included in staff meetings, corporate meetings, planning meetings, and so much more. My work has primarily focused on structuring conference sessions, publishing agendas, and drafting letters to members of Congress, the Senate, and state governments.

Because education is also an integral part of what I do at the NGLCC, I’ve had the great privilege to work under a supervisor whose primary training is in higher education. This week we will be supporting the National Gay and Lesbian Leadership Foundation (NGLF), which welcomes rising LGBTQ college first-years from all walks of life to DC for a week to hone in on their leadership skills. On Monday I will join Brandon as we greet the students and lead goal-setting and team-building exercises with them. Later in the week the NGLCC will welcome the students to our Supplier Innovation Center for two panels on corporate relations and LGBT entrepreneurship. The work that the NGLCC does goes far beyond its reach in serving just the LGBT business community. By providing youth with the opportunity to gain firsthand perspective into the lives of successful LGBTQ adults, I believe the NGLCC is doing a great service to the development of these upcoming leaders.

Here at American University I’m enrolled in a course entitled “Community and Social Change.” Our professor believes that because we are in DC, seeking an immersive experienced, our class should be nothing less than an immersion experience in DC, which has proven to be very beneficial to my experience here. Last week we had our first official class gathering in which we found ourselves at the British Ambassador’s residence for a reception honoring the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict which was taking place in London, England. I love the fact that our professor has made it a point to take us out of the classroom and into the city to combine community and social change with real-life experiences.

With just over six more weeks in DC, I am sure to have fun-filled, action-packed, educational experiences in the weeks to come. I couldn’t be more thankful for this summer, the people I’ve met, and those who gave me the privilege to be here. I am looking forward to all that is in store for me in the following weeks and the ways in which this experience will shape my future goals and experiences.



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