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In a way, DukeEngage has contributed to a lot of “firsts” for me. This is my first time working a Monday-Friday 9-5 job. (Well, technically I work 10-6 but still. The eight hours a day concept is what I’m talking about.) This is also the first time that I’ve engaged with the inner-workings of a non-profit. And, this is the first time that I’ve had a job where I’ve been left to create a plan or project to consume my time.

In a realm of firsts, it can get overwhelming. I’ve adjusted well to working eight hours a day; it’s really not that tough when 80% of your job is interacting with clients and building relationships. I’ve also learned my way around the organization fairly well in the almost four weeks that I’ve been here. The hardest first for me thus far has been developing my own project.

Making it My Own

In the real world of working, your supervisor says “This is your experience” and “Make this your own” to you and they really mean it. In this organization, they expect the interns to come in and create their own activities to use their skills. I mean, yes, I spend a portion of my time in very specific, directed activity but not much. And while this could cause of anxiety for some , I’ve mostly found peace and resolve in not being given massive stacks of “busy work” to complete. For me, anxiety came from being constantly asked if I had a project proposal or a group idea.

Depending on who you ask, someone might tell you that I’m pretty creative, but I disagree. I struggled for a couple of weeks to create an idea of what kind of activity group I wanted to lead. I initially came up with the idea to do a public speaking centered group because it’s a skill that many youth in this organization lack. However, I found inspiration for a project that I really love after visiting the Lark-Inn, one of the organization’s emergency shelters, and I had the idea that we should paint it. I thought adding murals and images to the walls in the dorm area would create a more positive and vibrant environment.

My idea for the project was pitched to my supervisor by another intern that I had shared my thoughts with. And the results were that she asked him to come up with an official project proposal to send in to her. This was another first; I had never created a project proposal until last Friday and I felt like a real professional when I did. I’ll be sure to add that skill to me resume! I never imagined that was a skill I’d gain this summer.

Now it’s Ours

Today, we got the go-ahead from the Lark-Inn staff to begin the first steps of our project! I’m excited for the project. I don’t want the praise or to feel like the savior. And that’s what this work is all about, right? It doesn’t matter who does it as long as it’s serving it’s purpose.

I hope my project brings joy to the clients in the shelter. And I know that all of the interns in my group and I will have a blast painting those walls. Painting this shelter won’t only be “my experience,” but a shared experience between me, the other interns, and every client that enters those walls from now until forever.