Our #SummerOfPurpose blog series follows this year’s Cleveland Foundation Summer Interns as they spend 11 weeks working with Cleveland-area nonprofit and public sector organizations. In today’s blog we hear from Heather Eby, who is working with West Creek Conservancy on the “Repurposing Parmadale” capital campaign, as well as ecological assessments and stormwater control audits as part of the Central Lake Erie Collaborative.
College: Case Western Reserve University
Hometown: New London, PA
Internship Host Site: West Creek Conservancy
Why did you initially decide to participate in the Cleveland Foundation Summer Internship Program?
As someone who is not native to Cleveland, I was surprised by how much I came to love the city. I had limited knowledge about the nonprofit sector, but I connected with the idea of letting my passion fuel my work and being a part of an organization whose core value is to enhance the lives of people in the Greater Cleveland area. I wanted the chance to create change and prioritize people over profit, and this program seemed like the perfect opportunity to do just that.
What has been the most valuable aspect of your internship experience so far?
I have valued the exposure to many facets of the environmental sector and the chance to connect with people who are doing different kinds of work toward the common goal of bringing about more sustainable communities. I’ve learned there are a multitude of options for people who want to work in the environmental field and I’m really excited about how interdisciplinary the work has been. I have been out to visit various sites West Creek is interested in restoring, often with multiple partners working together, and have appreciated seeing how important it is for different organizations to collaborate to make big projects come to fruition. I have also gotten the chance to get my hands dirty and help with stormwater control, planting, and urban farming, which I’ve had a lot of fun with.
What skills are hoping to develop through this experience?
I am hoping to strengthen my skills in ecological assessments, community engagement, fundraising, project management, and to gain a better understanding of the value of restoring urban land.
When you’re not working, what do you enjoy doing around Cleveland?
Every Saturday I enjoy doing my indie rock radio show on WRUW-FM 91.1 Cleveland. Additionally, I love getting outside and exploring the abundant natural areas and greenspace around the city. The shores of Lake Erie, the Metroparks System, and Cuyahoga Valley National Park are beautiful. I also love visiting Cleveland’s neighborhoods, learning about the local arts culture, and searching for the best vegan food the city has to offer.
How has this internship helped you grow professionally?
The most meaningful professional information I have learned so far is the power of connections and facilitating a mutually beneficial network of people. I think I will continue to learn how to make use of networks and connect with others who have shared interests and present valuable perspectives.
How has this internship helped you grow personally?
This internship has helped empower me and show me that contributing my voice to the conversation is both powerful and appreciated.
Where would you take a friend who is visiting Cleveland for the first time?
I would start out by taking them somewhere for breakfast/brunch like The Root Café in Lakewood. Next, we would get out and explore by either walking or biking along the shore of Lake Erie. Afterwards we would either go to one of the many festivals/events going on in Cleveland at the time or visit some of the museums (Cleveland Museum of Natural History, Cleveland Museum of Art, Botanical Garden, etc.). We would get dinner somewhere in the downtown area, then grab ice cream and walk around or watch the sunset over the lake to end the evening!
What advice would you give to someone considering applying for the Cleveland Foundation Summer Internship program?
Think about where your values and aspirations lie and if they would potentially align with nonprofit work. Do you get excited about the prospect of living, learning and working in and for the betterment of the Cleveland area? If that resonates with you, then do it! Let your unique passion drive you forward and let it show to others. Be patient throughout the process and make sure you are informed about the host sites you are interested in and that those sites align with your own career goals.