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 Tristan Warder, who is working with the Cleveland Transformation Alliance where he is co-facilitating and supporting grassroots community conversations and action planning. Tristan is also creating a social media campaign, and managing data and communications with both families and community partners.
College: University of Wisconsin-Madison
Hometown: Lakewood, OH
Internship Host Site: Cleveland Transformation Alliance
As a die-hard Clevelander who has lived away from the city for 7 years, I am always looking for opportunities (and excuses) to return to Cleveland. A family friend mentioned the Cleveland Foundation Summer Internship Program to me, and it instantly piqued my interest. A summer spent getting 9-to-5 workforce experience, while also working towards bettering the city that I love? Sign me up! To me, the internship represented an opportunity for me to be a part of building up the city that made me who I am. Everyone in college is looking for resume-builders, but work that is personally meaningful is so much more valuable. Developing myself professionally while developing Cleveland through my work was what drew me to this internship.
I grew up in the suburbs of Cleveland, and moved out of state after my freshman year of high school, but remained a Clevelander at heart. In Northeast Ohio, I enjoy our national and metroparks, sporting events, the zoo, the downtown nightlife, and our huge variety of great eating establishments. In the time I lived away from Cleveland, I visited friends and family several times a year. This situation gave me a unique perspective of the progress in Cleveland. It seemed every time I came back, the city had something new and exciting to offer, whether it was the resurgence of The Flats, renovation of Public Square, return of LeBron, or any of the other new features of our growing metropolitan area. With even more renovation and rebuilding projects underway, such as the Opportunity Corridor, Shoreway renovation, and the Cleveland Browns, now is such an exciting time to be in Cleveland. Nonprofits, and specifically the Cleveland Foundation, are driving much of the development in Northeast Ohio, so I am honored to be given the opportunity to be a part of this movement.
My host site is the Cleveland Transformation Alliance, a nonprofit organization focused on providing the opportunity for all children in Cleveland to attend quality public and public charter schools. Our work mostly consists of providing information to parents about school quality and options. We publish our School Quality Guide annually, which is a comprehensive assessment of all elementary and high schools in Cleveland, and we recently launched a new website which contains that information as well. Joining a full-time staff of three, I was instantly able to get my hands on several projects upon beginning my time with the Alliance. I have worked on editing and developing our website, community outreach, event planning, marketing strategy, data entry, and establishing partnerships, among other experiences. I am developing a broad range of skills and gaining confidence in professional communication.
Something I struggled with early on was my familiarity with all of the Cleveland neighborhoods. While I knew my way around Ohio City, and could navigate Euclid and Prospect, I had little familiarity with areas like Fairfax, Kinsman, and Old Brooklyn. As someone who grew up in the suburbs, that made me feel alienated from my work; how can I be working to better these neighborhoods if I can’t even point them out on a map? However, my community engagement work has me driving all over Cleveland every week, and I have found myself paying much more attention to where I am in the city. While at first a challenge, it has become a mission for me to learn Cleveland like the back of my hand. The more I discover, the more I appreciate – many people in the Cleveland area stick to the “East side” or “West side,” but I have found this place is best enjoyed as a whole.
If you are considering applying for the Cleveland Foundation Summer Internship program, I urge you to do some research. Similarly to choosing schools, fit is everything. I am getting my degree in Economics and Educational Services, so the work I am doing is aligned with my interests and studies. The host organizations offer a wide variety of fields and experiences, so find one that you are interested in before you spend a bunch of your time with the application process. Fit and motivation are large factors in the success of your internship. If you want this internship solely for a piece to put on your resume, it might not be the best for you. Nonprofit work is powered by passion, which is another reason fit is so crucial in the application and selection process. I am motivated by my Cleveland pride and empowered by my field of study to do the work I am doing at the Cleveland Transformation Alliance. Cleveland is a wonderfully diverse city, so if you are true to yourself, you will find your place here.
Go Cavs! Go Browns! Go Tribe! Go Cleveland!