Summer Of Purpose: Rachel McDonald

Euclid Memorial Park Community Garden

Our #SummerOfPurpose blog series followed this year’s Cleveland Foundation Summer Interns as they spent 11 weeks working with Cleveland-area nonprofit and public sector organizations. In today’s blog we hear from Rachel McDonald, who spent her summer working with the City of Euclid where she gained experience in content creation, grant writing and event planning with an emphasis on community engagement and neighborhood revitalization.


Name: Rachel McDonald

College: Ohio University

Hometown: Euclid, OH

Internship Host Site: City of Euclid

Why did you initially decide to participate in this internship program?

My decision to participate in this program was an easy one to make; the program being in Cleveland and the work experience being within the nonprofit/public sector were the two factors that first swayed my decision. I also liked the cohort aspect of the program – knowing I would meet new people with similar interests and receive resources, exposure and opportunities to connect with others. Lastly, my decision was affirmed after looking at the list of host sites, and thinking I would be excited about working at any of the places listed.

What has been the most valuable aspect of your internship experience?

This internship has been an incredibly valuable experience, from meeting countless people doing great work throughout Cleveland and learning about and from the nonprofits where members of my cohort were placed, to spending the summer immersed at Euclid City Hall, every aspect has been of value to me. But I believe the most valuable component of my internship was the opportunity I received through one of the projects I worked on. This summer, I organized an event focused on urban agriculture, aiming to highlight, celebrate and educate about urban farming and gardening in Euclid. The experience of putting together this event was very impactful. I was able to incorporate my education and personal interests into my work (I had written two research papers on urban agriculture last school year), and was given responsibility to take on a project that challenged me and allowed me to be creative, while still receiving support and guidance from my coworkers. Most importantly, I was able to strive towards strengthening an existing community, and also bringing together a community in Euclid around a topic I personally believe is so impactful, empowering and important.

View of Lake Erie public lakefront at Sims Park in Euclid

Euclid’s Public Lakefront: Sims Park

What has been the most challenging aspect of your internship experience?

The most challenging aspect of my internship has been transitioning from working on a college campus in a small town to working within a much larger and more urban community. Though I am from Euclid, I never engaged with the city through the lens of city government. And while I am very involved at Ohio University working in campus organizations, and have some experience in event planning, outreach/communication, etc., this summer really challenged me to learn and navigate a role that was very new to me. Obviously, I knew that working at the City of Euclid would be a completely new and challenging experience, but I was somewhat surprised by how much it took me out of my comfort zone and honestly, at first, intimidated me. I am grateful I was challenged in this way through my internship, and I am also grateful for the support from my supervisor and others both at Euclid City Hall and the Cleveland Foundation; I never felt helpless or overwhelmed by the challenges I faced, and I worked through them, ultimately learning and growing immensely because of them.

When you’re not working, what do you enjoy doing around Cleveland?

In the summer, I like to be on or near Lake Erie; my favorite summer day consists of being on the boat with my family, and taking it around the Cleveland coast. In the cooler months, I enjoy going to coffee shops, the Cleveland Museum of Art, shows at Playhouse Square, dinner in Little Italy, and hiking in the Cleveland Metroparks.

Cleveland Metropark: Euclid Creek Reservation

Cleveland Metroparks Euclid Creek Reservation

What are your career goals after college?

While I have no set plan or specific career path in mind for after college, I definitely have some overall career goals. I know I want to be doing work that involves strengthening communities and bettering the lives of residents. There are various ways to pursue this goal; I definitely have a personal interest in food justice and sovereignty, environmental sustainability, and social equity, so I’d love to do work that encompasses these aspects.

Where would you take a friend who is visiting Cleveland for the first time?

I have had several college friends visit me in Cleveland for a day or two, and showing them around is one of my favorite things to do. There is a general itinerary I stick to, but obviously no one can experience all the great places in Cleveland in one or two days – or even a week. However, I enjoy the challenge of creating my version of the “best of Cleveland tour.” First, I will take them to Lake Erie, since I live in Euclid and it’s across the street. Then, we’ll head to Waterloo Arts District for coffee at Six Shooter, and if it’s the weekend, brunch at the Beachland Ballroom and of course a walk up and down the street. The next stop is the Cleveland Museum of Art. After the art museum, we have to go to the West Side Market and walk around Ohio City, and probably stop at another coffee shop. If the weather is nice, I try to take people to one of the Cleveland Metroparks for a quick hike. And to end the day, it’s fun to get dinner somewhere downtown, probably on E 4th St., and then go to see the chandelier at Playhouse Square lit up at night! 

What advice would you give to someone considering applying for the Cleveland Foundation Summer Internship program?

I would tell anyone applying to the Cleveland Foundation Summer Internship program to definitely go for it if they’re looking for a meaningful and engaging internship experience. This program is not for everyone, as you’ll not only be expected to do quality and impactful work at your site, but through civic immersion days you will be challenged to think critically and to absorb, process and discuss various concepts surrounding topics such as equity, sustainability and development on local and regional scales. 

1 Comment

  1. Coaraci Nogueira do Vale

    What a great interview and inspiring answers. No wonder you are Suzy’s daughter! When would you develop an interest in visiting Brazil and see for yourself how much there is to be done in this country in your areas of interest?

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