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 Erica Henrichsen, who is working with the Western Reserve Land Conservancy, supporting the work of the Reforest Our City Program.
Name: Erica Henrichsen
College: Cleveland State University
Hometown: Sandusky, Ohio
Internship Host Site: Western Reserve Land Conservancy
Why did you initially decide to participate in this internship program?
I decided to participate in this program to enhance my knowledge of the Greater Cleveland community; gain experience in my field of interest; clarify my future career goals as well as expose myself to the forms and functions of the local nonprofit and public sectors. I want to have a positive impact on my community and I strongly believed this internship would give me the ability to do so (I can confirm it has given me this opportunity).
What has been the most valuable aspect of your internship experience?
The most valuable aspect of my internship experience has been the ability to work in a field that I am overwhelmingly passionate about. My goal in my professional life is to work full-time for a company that has sustainability at the core of its mission, such as the Western Reserve Land Conservancy. I have had an absolute blast working with Western Reserve Land Conservancy, learning from them and gaining valuable experience from them. It has not felt like work at all. I am so happy to be able to use my skills to help such an awesome organization!
What has been the most challenging aspect of your internship experience?
The most challenging aspect of my internship experience is entirely unrelated to my position, but rather related to the pandemic that the world is facing this summer. Being stuck at home has been anything but good for my mental health and my already uncertain future has become even more uncertain, which has caused a lot of stress. Learning to manage that stress has been challenging, but everything has a silver lining and it is important to look for it! I am so grateful to the Cleveland Foundation for continuing this program remotely, as many of my friends had their internships canceled. I am also grateful to the Western Reserve Land Conservancy for allowing me to join them in field work to get outside and away from a computer screen sometimes!
How has this internship helped you grow professionally?
This internship has connected me to several people within the nonprofit and public sectors of Cleveland as well as within my field of interest. Having these connections will hopefully expose me to opportunities down the line and help me advance my professional career.
This internship has given me a lot of experience and knowledge that I can and do use to become better every day. I have learned so much about Urban Forestry. I have learned about different species of trees, how to properly plant and care for trees, what urban forestry looks like in Cleveland, the benefits of urban trees, and more. This is something I had been exposed to in my major; but, it was very exciting to dive deeper into it. This internship is very fulfilling to me as a person because I feel as though I am making a direct impact on my community. I’ve planted trees and helped trees thrive in the city, thus ensuring their potential benefits are maximized. I will always remember the first tree I planted with the conservancy (pictured, right)… I have come so far!
What’s your favorite public space in Cleveland?
My favorite public space in Cleveland is either Edgewater Park or Rocky River Reservation. I can’t decide! Actually, it might just be all of the Cleveland Metroparks. I also really like Voinovich Bicentennial Park and Public Square downtown.
Where would you take a friend who is visiting Cleveland for the first time?
I would start the morning with a trip to the Root Cafe in Lakewood for some delicious vegetarian food, baked goods, and coffee/tea that is out of this world. Then, we would go on a hike at Rocky River Reservation. Next, we would head to Ohio City to the Tabletop Cafe to grab a bite to eat and play games for a while. Then, we would obviously make a stop at the West Side Market to browse while in that area. We would pick up dinner at the Earth Bistro Cafe (in the Edgewater neighborhood) and take it with us to Edgewater Park and Beach where we would end the day visiting the script sign, playing on the beach, doing yoga at the park, watching the sunset, and more.
What advice would you give to someone considering applying for the Cleveland Foundation Summer Internship program?
Apply! This has been such a valuable experience for me, and I am so grateful to have been selected to participate. I’ve learned so much about myself, Cleveland, and the host organizations, and I have developed myself both personally and professionally. I highly recommend this experience to anyone interested in the nonprofit or public sectors.