This is part of a series of posts by recipients of the 2021 Career Services Summer Funding Grant. We’ve asked funding recipients to reflect on their summer experiences and talk about the industries in which they spent their summer. You can read the entire series here.
This entry is by Alex Worrall, COL ’23
This past summer, I interned with the Philadelphia-based nonprofit Nationalities Service Center as part of their Employment Readiness Program team. Nationalities Service Center assists immigrants who have recently arrived to the Philadelphia area settle and adjust to life in the United States. Nationalities Service Center connects clients with welfare benefits, assists with healthcare and health appointments, provides clients with employment and employment-training opportunities, offers legal assistance, and has many other services.
The Employment Readiness Program (ERP), the team I interned with, focuses specifically on providing services to unemployed or recently employed individuals to prepare them for entering the workforce. Some of the services provided through ERP include English as a Second Language courses, an interview-clothing wardrobe, and connecting clients with courses to advance their education or to prepare them for specialized jobs (e.g. commercial driver’s license training).
As an intern at Nationalities Service Center, I was the point of contact for many of the organization’s clients enrolled in ERP. Every day, I reached out to clients to check-in on how they were doing and how their week was going, request documentation that ERP required, and ask them if they needed help connecting with any services. I frequently prepared and walked through agreements with clients over the phone–with an interpreter when necessary–and answered any questions the client had regarding the documents and the services that Nationalities Service Center provides. I was also responsible for keeping client records updated and including information regarding what we spoke about on the phone and what services they required, as well as assisting my Case Manager with auditing her client files for the fiscal year.
As a history and sociology major, much of my academic work revolves around the history of immigration and migration patterns in the United States. Too often, however, these discussions do not include the actual lived immigrant experience, or, when they do include it, the immigrant experience is treated as a monolithic lifestyle with predetermined patterns of employment, housing, and social interactions. While this treatment suffices in generally differentiating the lives of groups of immigrants from both native-born individuals and other groups of immigrants, it alienates the personhood from immigrants. No longer are they different people with different lives; rather, the idea of “immigrants” becomes an individual group as opposed to a group of individuals. Working with Nationalities Service Center provided me with practical applications of information I learned in the classroom. I was working with individuals with individual lives, and each client had different needs that had to be met. I was able to work and interact with people of various backgrounds that I had learned about in class in unique ways.
For me, it is important that I do work that has a positive impact on the lives of other people. Interning with Nationalities Service Center gave me the opportunity to do just that. By connecting clients with educational, health, and employment opportunities, I was able to assist in materially improving the lives of immigrants to the Philadelphia area.