Our #SummerOfPurpose blog series follows this year’s Cleveland Foundation Summer Interns, who spent 11 weeks working with Cleveland-area nonprofit and public sector organizations. In today’s blog we hear from Shaela Hayes, who worked with Towards Employment, Inc. to support the organization’s advocacy agenda in two areas: career pathways for low-income individuals and criminal justice reentry issues.
Name: Shaela Hayes
College: University of Cincinnati
Hometown: Middleburg Heights
Internship Host Site: Towards Employment, Inc.
Why did you initially decide to participate in this internship program?
As an aspiring attorney, I often find myself seeking ways to further the public good. And if you live in Cleveland, you know the Cleveland Foundation is a one-stop-shop for ways to make an impact. So, when I learned the Cleveland Foundation hosts an internship program that grants students the opportunity to work within Cleveland-area nonprofits and public sector organizations—I knew I had to get involved.
What has been the most valuable aspect of your internship experience?
The most valuable aspect of my internship has been my experience in TE’s career-readiness workshop. By helping participants gain interviewing skills, renewed confidence, coaching, and a support network, the career-readiness workshop works to remove barriers to employment that prevent individuals with criminal records from getting a good job. For me, the workshop served as exposure to the direct, significant impact TE has on its community. From heartfelt participant thank-you letters to mock interviews turned job offers, I am beyond thankful to have been a part of this extraordinary program.
What has been the most challenging aspect of your internship experience?
Aside from learning how to unmute myself on Zoom before beginning to talk, I have to say the most challenging aspect of my internship experience was saying “no.” In the nonprofit world, you get the chance to wear a lot of different hats. The marketing and development team steps in to provide virtual tech support for participants, the director of public policy facilitates racial equity and inclusion trainings, and everyone sits on the board of a thousand different organizations at once. While I was ecstatic to have so many opportunities to immerse myself in Towards Employment’s mission, there came a time where I realized I had to turn down opportunities to avoid spreading myself too thin.
When you’re not working, what do you enjoy doing around Cleveland?
Ever since I moved to Cleveland, the West Side Market has been a personal favorite off-the-clock place of mine—especially during Christmas time. From the fresh fruit to the exotic candies, I enjoy that the West Side Market is home to a remarkable number of different vendors bearing a plethora of different goods. As a Pittsburgh native, I highly recommend checking out the vendor Pierogi Palace!
What are your career goals after college?
After earning my Bachelor of Arts degree in philosophy from the University of Cincinnati, I plan to attend law school. Once licensed, I wish to practice as a criminal defense attorney before earning my Ph.D. and becoming a law professor.
To fully capture the many ways in which this internship has helped me grow professionally, I might need a few more pages of space—or 50. On a macro level, working in a nonprofit has shown me the high standards to which I should hold my future workplaces. A place of employment should take notice of the current issues plaguing our country such as police brutality. A place of employment should value their employees’ input, no matter their title. And a place of employment should train their employees on racial equity. On a micro level, working at Towards Employment has taught me just how important it is to contact my elected officials about legislation that matters to me because—as has been instilled in me from a fellow cohort member—my voice matters.
What’s your favorite public space in Cleveland?
This may sound cliché, but Public Square immediately came to mind. Public Square is dear to me because it’s where the first march I ever attended took place: The 2019 Womens’ March. It’s also home to some of my favorite artwork, gardens, and occasionally—food trucks!
What advice would you give to someone considering applying for the Cleveland Foundation Summer Internship program?
Do your research! Even if your career goals do not entail working in a nonprofit, research the host organizations. Chances are, you will find at least one (likely several) organizations that are on the battlefield for causes you care about. And if you decide not to apply to the internship program, do not give up on the Cleveland Foundation. Research their other programs. The Cleveland Foundation hosts several different programs, including a public service fellowship.