Summer of Purpose: Ale Andrzejewski

Ale stands outside giving a thumbs up in front of a stone wheel

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 Ale Andrzejewski, who spent his summer at West Park Kamm’s Neighborhood Development, where he worked to identify ideal locations for a public art installation, assisted in the development and execution of a “5 Points” pop-up placemaking pilot, and established a vision framework for future Rocky River Drive commercial corridor investment.

Name: Ale AndrzejewskiPhoto of Ale Andrzejew

College: Cleveland State University

Hometown: Hamburg, New York

Internship Host Site: West Park Kamm’s Neighborhood Development

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

Honestly, my decision to apply for this program came to me as a hope and an aspiration. I was figuring out where I wanted my life to go in 2022, entering the year halfway through my experience as an AmeriCorps member with City Year Cleveland. Initially devoting my time to a year of service in search of a deeper sense of purpose, I found throughout my time a simple answer through my service. I realized that by putting myself in new situations and gaining new experiences from meeting people, learning new skills, attending new events, etc., I can build the idea of what I think it means to live a good life. Interning with the Cleveland Foundation was the way I envisioned gaining life experience in the way that served my interests best at the time I was deciding what I wanted. My previous experience with community development and my desire to learn how I can best serve the people in my community seriously influenced my decision to take a chance and be a part of something greater than myself.

Ale stands in front of step and repeat background with four other interns at a special eventWhat has been the most valuable aspect of your internship experience?

The most valuable aspect of my internship experience thus far has been the relationships I have created with the people I’ve met. The networking events hosted by the Cleveland Foundation have connected me to people who share similar experiences and have like-minded career path outlooks. Moreover, the events put on by my host organization have exposed me to the ongoing work it takes to facilitate community development within a neighborhood. Not only have I befriended peers at West Park Kamm’s Neighborhood Development (WPKND) but also various members of its board of directors, the councilman of Ward 17, and countless residents throughout the process. Lastly, my advisor, Hannah Gall, was one of the first people I met at WPKND and has been an incredible role model in community development project management, systems thinking, and being a good human being!

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

Oh man! What a great question. Anybody that knows me knows that I will let the wind take me wherever the sun shines. In the case that it’s not windy, you can find me playing pickup volleyball at Whiskey Island or the sand courts at Mulberry’s. I’m also an avid outdoorsman so you may find me hiking a trail in the Metroparks. If there is live music playing, anywhere, of any kind, there’s a good chance that you can find me there with a smile on my face. I’m a novice stargazer who always carries my telescope in my car, and if you see the moon out, I’m probably looking at it! Whatever kind of day that happens, whether it’s a good day, an average one, or a not so good one, I try to catch the sunset at Edgewater Beach, Lakewood Park, or Settler’s Landing Park. If I’m really feeling the moment, I’ll break out my sketch book or journal and attempt to reflect the scene before me with charcoal or poetry—two of my absolute favorite hobbies.

What are your career goals after college?

I’m currently living one of my career goals! I graduated with a bachelor’s in political science from Hiram College in 2021 with the intention to engage with and connect with people directly impacted by the structural systems in place. My intention was to experience life and use what I had learned while an undergraduate student to share moments and enhance the lives of those around me. Serendipitously, this sort of outlook on life has led me to the realization that to attain a greater sense of agency for social matters pertaining to equity and justice, I needed to pursue a higher education. I guess you could say the purpose of my education led me to understand the power of agency, both individual and collective, which in turn has directed me to pursue a Master of Urban Planning and Development degree at Cleveland State University in the Fall of 2022.

How has this internship helped you grow professionally?

This internship experience has shown me what I have always been capable of but did not necessarily have the avenues to fulfill that capacity. When I first started with WPKND, I was not sure what to expect. I did not have an experienced understanding of this new environment or how it would differ from my previous professional experience. However, the one thing that did not skip a beat was the way in which I felt confident in my presence at West Park Kamm’s. I may not have been an expert or well-versed person on West Park and its community development, but I knew that I could always ask questions to learn and understand information with nuance. I have been learning to trust what I have learned from my past experiences in similar settings for the insights they are able to give me, while also remaining flexible to what the situations call for in the present. One of the most valuable lessons that consistently shows up for me is trusting my adaptability and capability in situations that call for flexibility.

How has this internship helped you grow personally?

At the start of my experience as an intern this summer, I was unsure what I would be doing in this internship and how it would make sense for my future ambitions. I had a very professional outlook on how I would be approaching this experience. Thankfully, I was paired with an exceptional organization that I feel I’ve been able to excel in with my skills and abilities. I’ve learned about what I can do through trusting my knowledge and experience when applying it to real opportunities that can make an impact on people’s lives. I’ve learned to let myself be willing to learn through embracing challenges yet giving myself the grace to be patient when things don’t get figured out right away. By giving myself time to not get upset when things don’t seem like they’re working out how I want them to, I create space for the solutions to the problems before me to surface. In other words, when things feel tough, I embrace the idea that things are going how they are supposed to, take a break, and come back to the table with new ideas and a fresh perspective on things.

Sunset scene on the Cuyahoga River with rowers on the waterWhere would you take a friend who is visiting Cleveland for the first time?

I would plan a fun-filled day that gets a taste of the more well-known parts of the city, starting off at Wade Oval Circle to see the art museum and natural history museum, for sure. After several hours of awe and inspiration from some of the world’s greatest treasures, I would take my friend to Edgewater, where we could enjoy some friendly volleyball at Whiskey Island or at Edgewater beach. We could find some delicious food in Lakewood and then end the day at the Solstice Steps at Lakewood Park to conclude that episode of adventuring with Ale in Cleveland!

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

One hundred percent, do it!!! You will never know what you can or cannot do if you do not try. I almost did not apply for this internship because it felt like I was too busy to make time for it. However, I really wanted the experience of learning about the Cleveland Foundation firsthand based on what I read about it online and heard through peers who were in the program in years prior. Let me put it this way: whatever it was that influenced or inspired you to discover the Cleveland Foundation Summer of Purpose Internship program was for a good reason. If you made it to the homepage, chances are you can make it through the application too. Sometimes it’s better to go with your gut than to let yourself overthink it. This experience has certainly been unforgettable and impactful on my life and in my pursuit of learning both personally and professionally.

To learn more about the Cleveland Foundation Summer Internship Program, click here. 

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