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 Jason Guo, who is spending his summer at The Nonprofit and Public Service Center at Lakeland Community College, where he is managing databases, creating a social media communications plan and conducting design-thinking research.
College: Case Western Reserve University
Hometown: Hershey, PA
Internship Host Site: The Nonprofit and Public Service Center at Lakeland Community College
Why did you initially decide to participate in this internship program?
I initially decided to apply because of my interest in the nonprofit sector. In my sophomore year of high school, I attended a leadership seminar called HOBY that emphasized the importance of leadership and using those skills to give back to communities. Because of HOBY, I have had a strong affinity towards the nonprofit sector and wanted to understand the roles as well as the operations and organization of nonprofits from a new perspective.
What has been the most valuable aspect of your internship experience?
The most valuable aspect of my internship experience thus far has been the opportunity to learn and meet new people, but there are so many more! My time at the nonprofit center has provided me the avenues for getting out of my comfort zone with numerous and impactful projects. More importantly, I have had the chance to learn about Lake and Geauga counties. I am so thankful to break out of the ‘Cleveland Bubble’ and learn about how beautiful and different the surrounding counties are.
When you’re not working, what do you enjoy doing around Cleveland?
When I’m not working, I really enjoy spending time enjoying the summer weather of Cleveland! Being a student at Case Western Reserve, I love spending time in University Circle and utilizing all the greenspace to walk around and enjoy the weather! I also love experiencing new things like going to the Metroparks, eating new food, spending time with my friends at Cedar Point, and walking along the lake!
What are your career goals after college?
After college, I hope to pursue some intermediate career – whether it’s in consulting, research, a Fulbright, or nonprofit work for a few years – and then go back to pursue law school. I plan on practicing law for a few years, and then going into public service and running for Congress. I truly want to be at the forefront of helping design and enact policy that represents all perspectives of our population. Regardless of what I choose to pursue, I know that nonprofits and service will be a keystone to my path. However, after my professional career, I hope to open my own restaurant with my own take on “Chinese-American” food with the inspiration of my mother.
How has this internship helped you grow personally?
This internship has truly helped me break out of my bubble. I have had so many amazing opportunities to get to meet new people and more importantly, I get the chance to do it on my own. In the past, I have always been uncomfortable doing new things by myself, and it has limited me and prevented me from trying new things. This summer, I attended a Common Ground conversation event on June 30th, and I am so grateful for that opportunity. At Common Ground, I was able to have a conversation with total strangers over a free breakfast — who can say “no” to free food?
The conversations we had were so interesting because they revolved around the Greater University Circle Area and for the first time since arriving at Case Western Reserve University, I finally felt like I was truly a part of the community. Following the Common Ground event I attended, I connected with a few of the participants at my table, and we have been working on a community initiative to help break down the stigmatization of neighborhoods surrounding University Circle. The old me would be absolutely terrified to go into any event with very little information and zero expectations.
Where would you take a friend who is visiting Cleveland for the first time?
I would take them to the Cleveland Museum of Art, Wade Lagoon, and finally to the Lakefront Nature Reserve on the Birding Path that goes along the lake.
What advice would you give to someone considering applying for the Cleveland Foundation Summer Internship program?
Find what makes you tick and follow that passion. Even though each Cleveland Foundation Summer Intern is very different, the one thing we all have in common is we are passionate about our community and helping others. People don’t go into nonprofits or the public service sector for fame and money. The work that I have had the chance to see firsthand comes from a place of compassion, love and hope for a better community and better world.