Coordinators and participants of the Greater Minnesota Internships Program gathered Thursday to recognize the program’s summer success.
The program itself is a partnership between the College of Liberal Arts and the University Extension Service. It aims to provide access to an expanded variety of real-world learning opportunities in underdeveloped communities beyond the Twin Cities area.
Most of the program was executed in Marshall, a community of about 15,000 people in southwest Minnesota. The city was targeted specifically because it has a significant migrant Latino population and no real infrastructure with which to assist them.
The reception marked the end of the program’s inaugural year.
“I started with high expectations, but I got even more than that out of the students,” said Maria Alejandra Reyes, program coordinator. “In terms of achievements, the students did all that they possibly could have.”
This positive reflection upon the success of the interns was no indication of the daunting task they undertook nearly four months ago.
“One of the biggest challenges for me was feeling like I had no sense of direction when we got there,” said Jessica Nischik, an intern who conducted a workshop about beginning a small business. “I didn’t know what I should be doing on a daily basis.”
The program’s nine interns facilitated several different outreach programs in the community, including a class teaching English as a second language, creative education and sports-related activities, nutrition and parenting classes, a human rights forum and activities for Latino children in the community.
Intern Sam Edelstein, a speech and communications major, worked to establish an Alcoholics Anonymous program that is still active in Medelia, Minn., and St. James, Minn.
“There were two men in the community who tried to start a branch earlier, but it fizzled because there was no place to hold the meetings,” Edelstein said. “I got the city government involved, and now they have a branch and a mission statement.”
Edelstein is not alone in his success. Luis Miguel Pereira, a political science and economics major, conducted a human rights forum in Marshall to notify Latinos of their rights as renters, workers and individuals living in the United States.
“One of the most important things I did was to notify the Marshall human rights committee of what needs to be done,” Pereira said. “I was happy because it was one of the first times people were brought together to discuss these things.”
Travis Reed covers student life and welcomes comments at [email protected] He can also be reached at (612)627-4070.