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An Open Letter to the Next Summer Intern

Dear Prospective Intern,

I hope my letter finds you well.  When you told me that you’re interested in interning at the M.K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence, my first reaction was: “What do I have to do to get you there?”

I recognize that although I am partial to Rochester as my hometown, it can be out of the way and carries somewhat of a negative reputation.  I also recognize that there are a number of positions at universities, governments, and nonprofits that are near-perfect fits for your goals after college.

Finally, I am aware that we are unable to pay summer interns any kind of compensation and taking a summer without pay is quite a burden: had it not been for the generosity of Whitman College to allocate the grant I applied for, this experience would not have been possible for me.  These are serious reservations that I won’t dismiss; however, this is perhaps one of the most empowering undertakings I’ve done.  After ten short weeks, I feel confident that I can carry out the work of the Gandhi Institute when I return to Walla Walla for my final year of school.  Work that I think can be best summarized by a beat-up Gandhi quote taped to the institute fridge: “In a gentle way, you can shake the world.”

There are picture-perfect moments of this internship that I will share during the Whitman College internship grant gala this fall.  There was the time I attended a dialogue about community safety, forgiveness, and humanity at Groveland State Prison with four of my co-workers and Arun Gandhi, institute founder and grandson of Mohandas Gandhi.  There was the stimulation of planning and teaching my very own lesson on #BlackLivesMatter and the Civil Rights Movement at a local Freedom School.  There was the opportunity to attend Justice Works conference for progressive New York in Albany, where I spend two days learning from some of the most incredible activists in my home state.  The amount of confidence placed in me as a summer intern allowed me to create or take advantage of all of these opportunities and I can assure you that the same confidence will be placed in you.

I will add a caveat that the Gandhi Institute isn’t for everyone.  Although the position of summer intern comes with considerable range and freedom to pursue the kind of work you enjoy and are excel at in a number of fields, you might be uncomfortable and restless without the regimentation of other internships.  Your experience will be as meaningful as you choose to make it and I ended up working twice as many hours as I originally planned in order to get what I wanted of the experience and achieve the goals I set for myself coming home to Rochester.  If you prefer structure, well-defined responsibilities, and close supervision this isn’t the place for you.  In a sense, the summer intern position at the Gandhi Institute is best for people with a vision of exactly what they hope to do for the benefit of the Rochester community, as well as the willingness to take initiative and chase that goal.  The Gandhi Institute is a small organization and Kit Miller, the institute director, is very resourceful: for just about every interest, talent, and educational background there is a project she will be able to think of where you can contribute.

I can’t do my experience or the Gandhi Institute justice in a short letter.  Perhaps what I shared doesn’t resonate with you, either by the shortcomings of my own writing ability or the incompatibility of the aspects I especially enjoyed and your own personal needs for a fulfilling summer internship; however, if you’re even a little interested by anything don’t hesitate to contact me or Kit Miller (kmiller@admin.rochester.edu).  Though my time at Gandhi Institute as a summer intern will end around 5:00 today, I want to stay involved with this organization moving forward since it changed my life.  One of the easiest ways to do that is simply to direct people towards everything that happens at 929 South Plymouth Avenue.

Best regards,

Dalton Cooper


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