Our #SummerOfPurpose blog series follows this year’s Cleveland Foundation Summer Interns as they reflect on 11 weeks spent working with Cleveland-area nonprofit and public sector organizations. In today’s blog we hear from Sebastian Canales, who spent his summer with The Greater Cleveland Neighborhood Centers Association (GCNCA), where he worked with directors of the P4SS and IConnect programs to expand and strengthen digital tech education systems, engaging with youth and adults to help bridge the digital divide.
College: Cleveland State University
Hometown: Chicago, Illinois
Internship Host Site: The Greater Cleveland Neighborhood Centers Association (GCNCA)
What has been the most valuable aspect of your internship experience?
One of my responsibilities at my internship site has been to work with students in grades 4th through 8th and show them different forms of technology. A couple times a week I will go to different Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD) schools, and the students will have opportunities to use virtual reality headsets – which, even I have to admit, are super cool. Additionally, they have opportunities to fly drones and have exposure to technologies that they may not necessarily have had before. It is always so fulfilling to me when students feel genuinely excited to work with new technology.
One of my responsibilities is working with older adults through GCNCA’s I-Connect Program and teaching them about different software and programs that exist. The biggest challenge is how to ensure that the participants not only learn important technology skills, but also making sure that when they get home, or in a month, they are still able to troubleshoot common issues. The digital divide is very evident in Cleveland, and part of the I-Connect program is to bridge that digital gap between older adults and technological devices.
When you’re not working, what do you enjoy doing around Cleveland?
I really enjoy spending time at the different Cleveland Metroparks, particularly the Hinkley Reservation. They have a great trail, around three miles in distance, that I run a few times a week. It is so peaceful for a walk, and they even have a lake where you can kayak — talk about fun!
What are your career goals after college?
I’m an aspiring attorney and, after graduating from CSU, I plan on attending law school. For me, representation is super important for younger generations; when I was growing up, I never really saw folks who looked like me or sounded like me in television, government or in the books I read. I think that if you’re a person living with a disability, a person of color, an LGBTQ+ individual, or an immigrant, you grow up with a certain level of awareness that what you see represented in the media is not what you experience as a human being. One of my goals after college and law school would be to help improve the representation for Latinx and LGBTQ+ individuals living in America. I aspire to, hopefully, make the immigration process for future families a little more seamless; it’s always comforting when someone is able to communicate with another person in their native language – it adds a level of security that many families go without.
How has this internship helped you grow professionally?
Before I started this internship, I knew nothing about nonprofit organizations, and now I know so much more about how they function. I really underestimated the amount of effort that goes into ensuring an organization’s goals are achieved. As an aspiring attorney, I never thought that my interests would blend together; I understand the importance of donating and volunteering to these kinds of organizations that do such important work.
How has this internship helped you grow personally?
Personally, I find myself becoming more aware of the deeper world around me. I feel so fortunate to live in a city that has so many passionate and dedicated nonprofit organizations.
Where would you take a friend who is visiting Cleveland for the first time?
If it’s the summertime and the weather is nice, I would take them to Edgewater Park. In the summer, there is always something to do, and the Cleveland Sign is a must – we have to capture an Instagram-worthy moment. If the weather is a little chilly, I would take them to The Cleveland Museum of Art. It is my safe space whenever I am overwhelmed or trying to get away from the world. The museum is so full of culture, and I always leave feeling so refreshed. And to top it all off – its free! You can’t beat that.
What advice would you give to someone considering applying for the Cleveland Foundation Summer Internship program?
Apply! Apply! Apply! The program is looking for the best students, and I encourage any student thinking about applying to do so! You will learn so much about yourself and about the city of Cleveland, regardless of what your internship specializes in. My father always spoke about unique opportunities that could only be found in this country, and I firmly believe that this program is one of those opportunities. I encourage anyone who is even remotely thinking about applying to do so.