Summer of Purpose: Samantha Montañez

Equality Ohio logo features parallel and perpendicular lines in green purple and blue

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 Samantha Montañez, who spent her summer at Equality Ohio, working alongside the Northeast Ohio Regional Organizer and Statewide Civic Engagement Director to educate about policy impacting the LGBTQ+ community.

Name: Samantha Montañez

College: Ohio University (class of 2022, MA in Law, Justice & Culture); Capital University (class of 2020, BA in Criminology, Sociology, & Psychology)

Hometown: Cleveland, OH

Internship Host Site: Equality Ohio

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

I initially decided to participate in the internship program because I felt like it would be good experience. I also wanted to find a way to work within my community and hopefully make a difference. As someone born and raised on the east side of Cleveland, I am passionate about my home, so the internship felt like a great way to give back and showcase my pride for Cleveland.

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

The most valuable aspect of my internship experience has been working with my supervisor/mentor, Gio Santiago. He is truly dynamic and one of a kind. His mentorship has taught me a lot this summer, not just about advocacy and allyship, but also about myself, my personal and professional goals, and where I want to go next. Overall, I would say the relationship building I had with all my co-workers, especially Gio, has been the most valuable aspect. Equality Ohio is an organization filled with amazing, dedicated, and inspiring people.

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

The most challenging aspect of my internship experience has been working from home. I love working virtually (which I know contradicts what I said), but I am also a people person. I am someone who enjoys the company of others. Therefore, adjusting to this virtual life has been a learning curve, but one that I believe I handled with grace. It is also hard to work virtually when my job is working with community organizers. So, to not be able to have much community in person, it made the experience harder. However, I still would not trade it for the world.

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

When I am not working, I enjoy exploring new restaurants with my family and friends. I live near Asiatown and Midtown, so I try to go to new places within those areas. I also love cooking new recipes and trying to recreate meals from the different cultures we have in Cleveland. Lastly, I love going to softball and baseball games and watching my friends and family play. Overall, when I am not working, I love to be anywhere in Cleveland with family and friends.

What are your career goals after college?

I truly believe I will be one of those people who will have 5-7 different careers in their life because I am interested in so much. I want to work in the nonprofit sector, local government, higher education, and in community advocacy. I feel like I can one day tie these all together somehow, but for now, I am still figuring it out. I can see myself running for mayor, running a nonprofit, starting my own nonprofit, or becoming a university president (just to name a few of my career goals). 

How has this internship helped you grow professionally? 

My internship has helped me grow professionally in many ways. I believe the most impactful way has been interacting with community stakeholders and advocates. Communication is very important in the professional world, especially when working in advocacy, so to learn how to speak with different groups is such a huge advantage. Professionally, I think I have gained skills and knowledge on what it’s like to be a community organizer, how to organize, and how to advocate on a different level.

How has this internship helped you grow personally? 

This internship has helped me grow personally because it has allowed me to reflect and look at my own identities, privileges, and more in this world. Working with Equality Ohio has educated me so much on the LGBTQ+ community, more than I knew before, and this education has been amazing. I also believe that I am a more empathetic person because of Equality Ohio. Personally, I have really grown through this internship, and I am so grateful.

What’s your favorite public space in Cleveland?  

My favorite public space in Cleveland would have to be League Park. The history behind League Park and the neighborhood it is housed in is beautiful, robust, and impactful. I also love that a beautiful baseball park and museum is right in the middle of inner-city Cleveland on the east side. I often feel the east side of Cleveland gets left out of the conversations when it comes to investing into our neighborhoods. To have this park is amazing, and it is powerful for kids to see that the game of baseball is more than just a game, but rather a stage to make an impact, a game of camaraderie, and a place for all people.

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

I would take a friend to Bo Loong Chinese restaurant right on 40th and St. Clair. This is by far the greatest Chinese/Asian restaurant in Cleveland, especially when it comes to Dim Sum. The dumplings, vegetables, rice, and everything there during the time of Dim Sum is amazing, and what better way to introduce someone to the greatest city in the world than with a wonderful meal?

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

The advice I would have for someone is that when you apply and hopefully get an interview, be authentic. Being yourself, your true authentic self, will have a far greater impact than trying to be what you *think* the interviewers and foundation want you to be. When requesting recommendations, pick people who can speak for your authenticity, your character, and what traits you carry within you, regardless of their title. Titles mean nothing when there is no substance behind them. Lastly, enjoy and learn from the experience. Even if you do not get selected, it is okay to be frustrated and upset, but it is also important to learn from every experience we have in this life. Overall, be authentic, choose recommendations wisely, and learn something every step of the way.