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 Maria Ferrato, who spent her summer at Cleveland Kids’ Book Bank, where she is working with various community partners to plan and orchestrate local events to distribute books to Cleveland youth.
College: Carnegie Mellon University
Hometown: Stow, Ohio
Internship Host Site: Cleveland Kids’ Book Bank
Why did you initially decide to participate in this internship program?
I participated in this internship program because it provided an opportunity to continue working in the realm about which I am most passionate: youth literacy and universal access to literacy materials.
While earning my degree in English and media literacy and during my service year with City Year, I became increasingly aware of how social inequity creates barriers to literacy, and barriers to literacy in turn further social inequity, revealing yet another cog in the machine of the cycle of poverty in the United States.
When City Year posted the Cleveland Foundation’s Summer Internship Program, listing the Kids’ Book Bank as one of the host sites, I knew I needed to seize the opportunity to learn everything I could from both organizations before diving into a career related to the missions of both groups.
What has been the most valuable aspect of your internship experience?
The most valuable aspect of this internship is the people I’ve been surrounded by and the subsequent wisdom shared with me. Between the staff at the Kids’ Book Bank and the staff/alumni at the Cleveland Foundation, I have gleaned an abundance of knowledge about the nonprofit world and life in general. I will be leaving this internship a more informed and driven person than I was when I started.
When you’re not working, what do you enjoy doing around Cleveland?
Little bit of this, little bit of that. Mostly, I help my sister run her mobile coffee camper, Routine Coffee, working the register during events and also creating videos for her social media. Besides that, I spend my time in search of the best sounds, sips, snacks and sunsets; I’m a frequent concert attendee, I’m on the search for the best breakfast sandwich in CLE (RIP to the Grocery’s soufflé eggwich on homemade ciabatta. I miss you), I’m trying to have a dirty chai latte from every coffee shop in the city, and I spend most evenings reading whilst enjoying the sunset from different views.
What are your career goals after college?
More college! I graduated from Kent State University in May 2021, took my gap year with City Year and the Cleveland Foundation, and I am now headed to Carnegie Mellon University to pursue my MA in rhetoric. After my MA, I will go for my PhD with the long-term intention of becoming an English professor who researches how the media and the education system impact our ability to operate a functional and representative democracy.
How has this internship helped you grow professionally?
This internship has helped me hone my communication skills, particularly my small-talk skills. To me, the hardest part of networking is the initial breaking of the ice and the non-business topics that follow. Before this internship, I would always wait for people to come to me to start conversations, but I now feel more confident in my ability to break the ice and keep a conversation going.
What advice would you give to someone considering applying for the Cleveland Foundation Summer Internship Program?
Take the time to read up on the opportunity and the host organizations; be intentional with which organizations you list as your top three. Preparation is absolutely necessary before entering any interview, but I also think it’s important in this case because an 11-week internship flies by—don’t waste your first few weeks being confused by what your organization even is.