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 Thomas Vodrey, who spent his summer at the Cleveland Tree Coalition and Western Reserve Land Conservancy helping put the forest back in “the Forest City.”
Name: Thomas Vodrey
College: Denison University
Hometown: Cleveland, Ohio
Why did you initially decide to participate in this internship program?
I believe in the importance of public service and giving back to the community. Having grown up in Buckeye-Shaker, on the border of Shaker Heights and Cleveland’s East Side, I’ve seen firsthand the inequities in tree canopy which occur in communities which are right next to each other. This is an inequity which is worsening, as Cleveland loses about 75 acres of tree cover a year. This internship allowed me to help with efforts to address an often under-appreciated crisis.
What has been the most valuable aspect of your internship experience?
My internship has taught me a lot of valuable lessons about how different organizations interact and work together to address issues in Cleveland. Getting to meet the people who do the work on the ground has deepened my appreciation both of the many challenges which face Cleveland but also the wealth of talented and caring people trying to tackle them.
What has been the most challenging aspect of your internship experience?
The most challenging aspect of the internship is how quickly it’s over. Eleven weeks sounds like a long time in the abstract, but in reality it has flown by.
How has this internship helped you grow professionally & personally?
While I’ve had a broad interest in public service for a long time, this internship has helped me to gain a concrete understanding of what a future working in public service might look like. I now know more about the things which interest me and the things which are of less interest. It’s been especially beneficial to have the opportunity to learn grant writing skills, use Geographical Information Systems, and work cooperatively with staff in the Thriving Communities office.
Where would you take a friend who is visiting Cleveland for the first time?
You can’t go wrong with the Cleveland Museum of Art. There’s something for everyone to enjoy, and best of all you don’t have to buy your friend a ticket.
What advice would you give to someone considering applying for the Cleveland Foundation Summer Internship Program?
Keep an open mind! The program is a great opportunity to broaden your horizons. While urban forestry was an area with which I was unfamiliar before I started my internship, having gotten my hands dirty for a summer has taught me a lot about my interests and passions.