Summer of Purpose: Josie Vano

Members of the #SummerOfPurpose 2022 cohort met at Arts Impact to learn more about how the organization works with youth in Cleveland. As part of the visit, interns were invited to decorate a puzzle piece that reflected their personality, which came together to form the Cleveland Foundation’s logo.

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 Josie Vano, who spent her summer at the Jarvis Gibson Foundation, where she helped to plan fundraising events, assisted with grant writing, and developed a marketing and communications plan for the foundation’s signature program: Beyond the Field.

Picture of Josie Vano wearing blazer and glasses, posing with arms crossed Name: Josie Vano 

College: Kent State University

Hometown: Mentor, OH

Internship Host Site: Jarvis Gibson Foundation

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

I decided to participate in the internship program because I wanted to connect with Cleveland’s nonprofit community. I’ve always wanted to do work that supports my local area and has a direct impact on the people here, but before this summer I was never really sure where to start. Growing up in Northeast Ohio, I knew that Cleveland had a lot to offer— and this summer, I’ve begun to understand and appreciate just how much. There are so many organizations doing great work in Cleveland that I may not have discovered if not for this experience.

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

The most valuable part of this experience for me has been the professional connections I’ve made. I’ve had the opportunity to meet some truly amazing people, ask them questions about their careers and their organizations and learn more about how they work together in Cleveland’s nonprofit network.

Summer on the Cuyahoga hosted a networking event at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame this summer, connecting students and emerging professionals with individuals and employers from all around the Cleveland area.

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

I love exploring parts of Cleveland that are new to me. Discovering restaurants and small independent shops, and taking in all that Cleveland has to offer is always an exciting way to spend a day. Through the internship, I’ve been able to visit all kinds of new places for the first time— the Westside Market, Midtown Tech Hive (and the amazing Café Phix inside), Dunham Tavern, and even the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

What are your career goals after college?

After I graduate with my bachelor’s degree this spring, I’ll be heading to graduate school to pursue a dual program in expressive arts therapy and clinical mental health counseling. I’m planning to become certified as both an expressive arts and drama therapist, working specifically with deaf and disabled children and adolescents. After my experience with this internship, I’m considering starting my own nonprofit center for creative arts therapies, or finding new ways to apply those skills to existing programs and organizations like Arts Impact and the Beck Center for the Arts.

How has this internship helped you grow professionally?

The work I’ve done this summer has given me the opportunity to develop valuable skills that I can use as I progress in my career. I’ve worked on a range of projects, including grant writing, creating branding and marketing assets, technical writing and template design, and program and curriculum development. I’ve also made some great connections with local nonprofit professionals!

How has this internship helped you grow personally?

The internship experience has been great for growing my professional skills and network but also for growing my self-confidence. I’ve been able to deliver projects I’m proud of, get great feedback, and chat with professionals I would never have imagined connecting with at this stage in my career, all while gaining valuable experience in the nonprofit sector. As a nontraditional and first-generation college student in my second career, I’ve felt a little behind the curve compared to my classmates— but after this experience, I feel so much more equipped to move forward and more assured that I have valuable skills and knowledge to bring to the table wherever I go next.

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

My first bit of advice would be simply— apply! It’s an incredible experience, and the staff at the Cleveland Foundation will do everything they can to help you get the most out of your summer. And then, be open to the experience— even if you get placed with a host site that wasn’t at the top of your list, or if you’re doing work that doesn’t precisely align with your goals, there are still many parts of the internship that will be beneficial to you. It’s a great way to learn about Cleveland’s nonprofit network, get connected to professionals in the area, and become a little more well-rounded in your skills and experiences. You get as much out of it as you put into it, so make the most of it!

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