Abigail Carpenter was identified as a YES Scholar in the Spring of her 6th grade year at Blue Ridge Elementary School in Ashe County. With every opportunity introduced to her, Abby followed up and took the initiative to attend various summer programs throughout high school including Exeter Summer, Summer Accelerator through the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics (NCSSM), Yale Young Global Scholars, and the online Summer Scholars pre-college program at Notre Dame. While a student at Ashe County High School, Abby applied and was accepted to the online program through NCSSM. As a Questbridge College Prep Scholar, Abby had the opportunity to apply to various selective schools. Abby’s first choice, Georgetown University, was not meant to be, and she is the first to tell you that she’s thrilled that she didn’t end up there. Where did she end up? Yale University! Abby is back in New Haven, Connecticut and has started her second year after completing an internship back home this summer. Here’s a reflection of how she spent her summer.
How did you find a paid internship this summer?
I was searching for an internship in non-profit work that would not be a financial burden to me due to being a first generation student. After reaching out to a YES staff member, they were able to assist me in the search and found the Z. Smith Reynolds Non-Profit Internship Program. This organization pairs low income North Carolinian college students to non-profits looking for interns!
Where did you land and why did you choose this particular placement?
I chose to work with Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture. This organization is women-founded and supports a sustainable and equitable food system in the High Country [of North Carolina]. I chose this opportunity due to their commitment to growing a food system in my area that is beneficial to farmers, the environment and the people in my community. I was particularly interested due to their Double Up Food Bucks program that allows EBT recipients to access local, fresh produce at a low price. I also chose this opportunity because I wanted to make an impact on my community, and this organization was close to home.
How did this internship meet your expectations?
I expected this organization to support food producers and provide resources for sustaining our local food system, and this organization did a fantastic job. They hold a summer workshop series where farmers can teach one another vital skills. They also created the High Country Food Hub, which provides producers with an online platform to sell their products. I expected to work closely with farmers and learn about my local food system, which I was able to do through my daily tasks working at the Food Hub and by attending the free workshops!
How did this internship exceed your expectations?
I was blown away by the work environment that BRWIA has created. The space was deeply collaborative and supportive. For example, I was originally supposed to assist with the High Country Food Hub and write a few farmer profiles. However, after expressing interests in certain programs, I was allowed to join the events planning board, and assisted in amazing projects like the Healthy Food Boxes Program and grant writing for the Double Up Food Bucks Program. It was a space where everyone’s input was not only heard, but implemented.
What was the biggest challenge and how did you overcome it?
The biggest challenge that I faced was gaining confidence in myself to individually work on projects. I was encouraged to take my own approach to projects and grants. This was hard for me at first, but I soon started to gain trust in myself when my first project was approved and received positive feedback!
How did you grow as a human this summer (in this internship and outside of it)? How did you surprise yourself?
This summer I gained a lot of faith in myself. I was proud of not only the skills I was gaining, but how I was helping to impact my community. Staying in my region for my first summer back home was an amazing decision. I was able to assist my community, and connect with those around me. Working in the nonprofit world was fulfilling. I loved learning from the women in my community who were fighting to make an impact. Seeing what they sacrificed everyday to build a more equitable food system in my area was very inspiring, and made me want to pursue non-profit work. I was also able to spend time with my loved ones, allowing me to be relaxed and rejuvenated for the school year!
How did this internship refine your thoughts on a future career?
This internship helped to clarify misconceptions that I had surrounding non-profit work. I learned so much about how non-profits function, and where their funding comes from. This knowledge led me to start writing grants for the organization, which inspired me to do it for other organizations in my area! Gaining this skill has made me think about pursuing non-profit work and assisting more organizations!
What advice would you give for someone looking for a paid internship?
There are so many resources available! At first I was worried about working for a non-profit due to being a First Generation, Low Income student. Saving up money during the summer is crucial to ensuring my financial stability during the school year. I was able to find the Z. Smith Reynolds program with help from YES staff, which partners North Carolina students to non-profits, and pays them for their work. I highly recommend doing research for funding and reaching out to YES for help!
What else should we know that wasn’t asked?
Staying home your first summer is okay and can be incredibly fulfilling.
Abby interns with Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture this summer.
Thank you to our YES staff members Susan Saule and Carly Stephens and also to Abigail Carpenter for contributing to this post!