Meet Erin Dennehy ’19, Interned at Worcester Regional Environmental Council & Community Harvest Project
1. Tell us about where you interned and the kind of work you are doing.
I have held two academic internships at the Worcester Regional Environmental Council and Community Harvest Project through the Academic Internship Program here on campus. Both organizations are local environmental non-profits that grow fresh, local food for low-income individuals and families within Worcester County. CHP is a non-profit farm in North Grafton, MA and the REC is an environmental advocacy group with a small farm in Main South that also trains Worcester youth in organic, urban agriculture. At the REC, I was a Greenhouse and Urban Farm intern with tasks that ranged from planting and raising seedlings, managing student volunteers, stuffing envelopes for mailing lists, and maintaining the organization’s two college greenhouses at Holy Cross and WPI. At Community Harvest, I was a Executive Director and Non-Profit Intern, which meant I wore many hats; some weeks I was harvesting cabbages with machetes alongside volunteers, other weeks I was planning events, writing grants, and drafting volunteer recruitment resources. I also met weekly with the Executive Director for “executive sessions,” during which we would discuss a different aspect of non-profit, executive leadership.
2. Give us an example of how you have applied your academic learnings to your internship?
Writing skills were essential at Community Harvest Project in particular, especially when writing grants for several thousands of dollars. I also drew from my understanding of urban agriculture during both internships, which I gained through Environmental Studies courses like Sustainable Development and Resource Management, as well as Sociology classes like Cities & the Environment.
3. What has surprised you about being an intern?
I’m much better with a machete than I thought I would be! In all seriousness, both internships were physically demanding (since both were centered around urban agriculture). I found that I was much stronger than I previously gave myself credit for, and am able to keep up with the rest of the volunteers in the field during harvesting and crop maintenance! As a kid, I always wanted to be a farmer, so I’m glad I pushed myself to experience growing food for myself and my community despite fear of not being strong enough to do so!
4. How did this experience influence or connect to your future career plans / goals?
I learned that the small non-profit sector isn’t my cup of tea (I’m looking towards larger scale non-profit or for-profit environmental organizations); that being said, I gained a number of key skills from both internships, and wouldn’t change anything about the experiences I had there! After all, I never would have learned that non-profits aren’t for me if I hadn’t first entered the local non-profit world. Not to mention, I’m now a skilled gardener, grant writer, volunteer manager, event planner, envelope-stuffer, and machete-wielder!
5. Any internship advice to pass on to other Holy Cross students?
Don’t be afraid to reach out to organizations that aren’t advertising internship positions! In the case of Community Harvest Project, I just shot them an email with a cover letter and a resume, despite their lack of internship postings. I explained my motivations and conveyed how eager I was to learn about what they do in the community and assist them where I can. Before I knew it,
I had a phone interview and then a semester-long internship made just for me! The reality is that many organizations, especially small non-profits, would love the opportunity to host student interns! So even if there isn’t an internship being advertised within your organization of choice, don’t be discouraged! Reach out to them–there’s a good chance they’ll find work for you to do, and even create a new position for you to fill! Worst case scenario, they’ll just say no, and the search will continue 🙂