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 Kerrigan Ponsart, who spent her summer at May Dugan Center, where she worked with their food distribution program.
Name: Kerrigan Ponsart
College: Baldwin Wallace University
Hometown: Cleveland, OH (West Park)
Internship Host Site: May Dugan Center (MDC)
Why did you initially decide to participate in this internship program?
I have lived in Cleveland for my entire life and have a deep love and appreciation for the city. After spending a semester in D.C. through the Washington Center Program, I was eager to return home and spend the summer in service to my community. The program allowed me to explore the nonprofit sector in Cleveland and gain a lot of personal and professional skills along the way.
What has been the most valuable aspect of your internship experience?
The people that I have had the opportunity to interact with have made this experience one of the most transformative of my life. From spending mornings doing music therapy or quilting with the seniors to afternoons handing out food bags—the one-on-one service that the May Dugan Center provides has been inspirational to be a part of.
When you’re not working, what do you enjoy doing around Cleveland?
My favorite things to do around Cleveland when I’m not working are going to the West Side Market (and Gallucci’s) and visiting Lake Erie.
What are your career goals after college?
After graduating in May, I’m hoping to join the Peace Corps for a two-year term of service teaching English.
How has this internship helped you grow professionally?
I think the largest professional skill I developed was adaptability; the May Dugan Center is a multi-service center with six main programs, which means that jumping in where needed is part of the everyday routine. I never had two days exactly alike, and that allowed me to become a problem-solver and carve out new areas of growth.
How has this internship helped you grow personally?
Personally, I gained more confidence in my skill set. This is only my second internship experience, and I was still nervous about not being capable enough, but it’s a learning opportunity, and approaching situations as opportunities for growth was an important development for me.
What’s your favorite public space in Cleveland?
My favorite public space in Cleveland is the West Side Market. I firmly believe that an apple fritter from K&K bakery can solve most of life’s troubles, and Market Square Park across the street is the perfect place to enjoy it.
Where would you take a friend who is visiting Cleveland for the first time?
After the West Side Market, Little Italy is one of my favorite destinations in Cleveland, and somewhere I think everyone should visit. Without a doubt, I think the cannolis from Presti’s Bakery are a must-try and a Cleveland right of passage…If you can’t tell, I have a bit of a sweet tooth.
What advice would you give to someone considering applying for the Cleveland Foundation Summer Internship program?
I think my advice for anyone considering this program is to absolutely go for it; it’s an incredible experience to not only serve the Cleveland community but understand and experience the city more as well. Furthermore, take advantage of the opportunities presented to you even if they’re outside your comfort zone (those are often the best kind).