Class of 1969 internships put Princeton students into service

John Travis teaching

Princeton junior John Travis is teaching civics, public speaking and music to students at the Gesu School in Philadelphia this summer as an intern with the Class of 1969 Community Service Fund. The program, initiated by members of Princeton's class of 1969, allows students to pursue projects that provide valuable community service and enriching experiences for their future. 

Below left: Princeton senior Meghan Farrell, who teaches language arts at the Gesu School, created a version of the game show "Jeopardy" to help teach her students Japanese. Here Farrell plays the host as students compete to translate English words into Japanese.

Photos: Denise Applewhite

Senior Meghan Farrell is among dozens of Princeton students dedicating her time this summer to projects that provide valuable community service while helping to prepare them for the future.

Farrell is teaching language arts to inner-city students at the Gesu School in Philadelphia. She spent the earlier part of her summer at another inner-city school in Philadelphia, the Young Scholars Charter School, tutoring and working on a project to help middle school students understand their options for applying to private high schools.

Both jobs came to Farrell through a newly expanded summer program administered by the Class of 1969 Community Service Fund. While the class of 1969 initiated its service internships 10 years ago, this year it is handling administration of similar internships previously offered through Princeton Project 55. The 1969 Community Service Fund now oversees paid summer internships in two foreign countries and 17 states for 69 students, representing all of Princeton's undergraduate classes.

"I think the Class of 1969 CSF and partner organizations do a great job of providing many stimulating community service experiences in various domains and locations," Farrell said. "There really seems to be something for everyone."

Farrell considers herself fortunate to have found a position that fuels her interest in education, she said.

"This experience will be beneficial to me because it enables me to gain valuable insight and experience in education, especially charter and non-affiliated educational institutions," Farrell said. "It is rewarding in its ability to allow me to help foster the academic and social growth of inner-city middle school students." 

Jennifer Andresen teaching

The 1969 Community Service Fund and Project 55  -- both established by Princeton alumni classes to promote service -- decided last fall to consolidate their summer internships under the class of 1969 to make it easier for students to experience a broad range of service opportunities in the nonprofit sector.

"This is a natural transition that will enrich the possibilities for both nonprofit organizations and Princeton students," said Rick Kitto, chairman of the 1969 Community Service Fund, when announcing the change. "Princeton Project 55 inspired us to create our program 10 years ago. We're very excited to consolidate their placements with ours, offering students more summer internship opportunities through a single application process.”

The 1969 Community Service Fund already has partnerships with the classes of 1970, 1975 and 1977 to offer internships to current Princeton undergraduates and recent graduates over the summer. The new arrangement will allow Project 55 to focus on its program that offers yearlong fellowships.

"CSF has been extremely successful at matching Princeton students with outstanding nonprofit organizations domestically and abroad," said Kimberly Hendler, Project 55's managing director who helped oversee the merger of the summer internship programs. "We are excited to see the program flourishing under a new generation of alumni leadership. It's exactly what PP55 hoped would happen." 

Among this year's interns, senior Jennifer Andresen is helping to devise forms to help patients manage their own health problems through her job at Access Community Health Network in Chicago, formerly a part of Project 55.

"There's no question that this internship has given me the unique chance to see the administrative part of health care, a part that I otherwise would not get the opportunity to experience," Andresen said. "Learning about the communities Access serves has also deepened my understanding of the less fortunate neighborhoods in Chicago."

Joseph Ramirez, another senior, has been working with Universal Giving, a California-based group that connects donors and volunteers with nongovernmental organizations. He said it has given him valuable experience in the development work he wants to pursue someday. Likewise, junior John Travis, who is placed with Farrell at the inner-city schools in Philadelphia, said his experience also will shape his career choice.

"I've always been intrigued by the possibility of teaching, and being able to get some first-hand experience during a summer internship has been a dream come true," said Travis, who has been teaching civics, public speaking and music this summer. "I'm just really glad that Princeton offers this program that allows students with a passion for service-oriented internships not to be penalized for passing up other, generally well-paid internships."

The interns are an invaluable resource to the nonprofit organizations they serve, said Gail Chang Bohr, executive director of the Children's Law Center of Minnesota, which has employed a 1969 Community Service Fund intern for the past five years.

"The interns help us keep track of kids that are aging out of the foster care system by making calls to families that we probably wouldn't have time to make," Bohr said. "This allows our staff to dedicate their resources to other projects, so the presence of the interns is significant. The interns do substantive work."

All the interns with the service fund work with mentors who help guide them through the internship process. Another first for the program this year is that interns from previous summers have returned to serve as mentors.

"It's great to see what the former interns now working in the world are doing with their lives and how seriously they took that piece of the 'in the nation's service' motto away from their time at Princeton," said Seva Kramer, executive director of the 1969 Community Service Fund.

Lori Mihalich, who graduated in 2001 and was an intern with the National Network to End Domestic Violence, said returning as a mentor is one way she has found to live up to the University's informal motto.

"The decision to become a mentor this summer was an easy one to make," said Mihalich, now a law clerk in the Washington, D.C., Superior Court. "My experiences with the Class of '69 CSF have been incredibly positive, and I am delighted to be able to give something back."