Student Corps Response to COVID-19 NC (Response Corps) is a partnership between the NC Strategic Partnership Office (NC OSP), the head of the North Carolina / UNC School of Government and nonprofits. Since its launch, the Response Corps program has accommodated more than 185 students on internships at more than 100 nonprofit organizations and government agencies in North Carolina.
The Response Corps was launched in the spring of 2020 to meet the increased need for organizational capacity of nonprofits and local governments. In a statement to the Response Corps, Gov. Roy Cooper stressed: “COVID-19 tests local governments and nonprofits as they work to meet the needs of people in their communities. Thanks to this internship in public services, students gain valuable work experience, and local authorities and non-profit organizations receive additional assistance when they need it most. ”
“The Power and Impact of Government-University Partnerships”
In the spring of 2020, amid the uncertainty of their professional future, many college students experienced difficulties as internships and employment opportunities were canceled or postponed.
That same spring, heads of colleges and universities met with government officials to discuss ways to engage students in internships. Around the same time, a nationwide survey conducted by the NC OSP and the NC Center for Nonprofits found hundreds of organizations interested in accepting interns in addition to potential local authorities.
Representatives of career services from UNC schools, independent colleges and universities and public colleges encouraged students to apply for internships. To help participants and program partners further, representatives from colleges and universities also helped host sites identify possible similarities.
“The NC COVID-19 Student Response Corps continues to demonstrate the power and impact of government-university partnerships and cross-sectoral collaboration,” said Patrick Woody, president of the NC Rural Center.
Woody went on to say that the Response Corps “strengthened the talent pool, increased the capacity of programs that support North Carolina residents, and demonstrated the role of convocation and partnership the state government can play to address cross-sectoral challenges.”
“I couldn’t get this hands-on experience before.”
Eventually more than 120 students will serve as interns in the first year, and more than 60 students will participate in 2021, the second year of the program.
In 2021, the AJ Fletcher Foundation and the John M. Belk Foundation provided a $ 25,000 grant to provide compensation to each Response Corps intern. Host organizations that provide unpaid internships through the Response Corps were eligible for a scholarship of up to $ 1,000 per intern).
With many different participating organizations, these interns performed different roles.
Mohammadi Amena is a student at the University of East Carolina. Amena has worked with CIPIVIE (International Committee for the Promotion of Investment, Valorisation, Innovation and Employment), an organization that makes a “substantial, life-saving contribution” to the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Republic of the Congo-Brazzaville.
Amena shared that she was “very scared” when she first accepted the internship offer, as one of her assignments involved writing grants. However, over time she enjoyed researching and writing the components of the grant, so she stayed to work after completing the internship to help see the grant through the finish line.
Amena also took advantage of the professional resources provided by the Response Corps. As in the first year, there was a two-day training with teachers from higher education institutions and public administration practitioners. One of the sessions was on writing grants, which helped Amena navigate the grant writing process. Additional training opportunities included a weekly series of speakers with leaders from across the state. Participants were able to talk in small groups about possible career paths and how to use their experience as a member of the Response Corps, looking for future opportunities.
“It was definitely a worthy and valuable experience for me, because before I could not get this practical experience,” – shared Amena. “Now I am very excited to start the journey by learning how CIPIVIE and this project will improve the lives of many people and how it can potentially save lives.”
Host organizations ranged from those that promote public health to organizations that fight food security.
Some host organizations eventually collaborated with interns at several organizations. Martha Zimmerman of the West North Carolina Waterfall Prevention Coalition hosted several interns as part of the coalition’s participation in the project, and also hosted interns as part of her participation in the St. John’s Community Garden.
The effects of the pandemic caused a surge in the need for a garden and the associated food pantry. In 2020, the pantry served 50 families per week to 120 families per week in 2022. Zimmerman illustrated the impact of her interns on her organization. She noted the interns who help in harvesting and collecting flowers, “to be taken [their] the local market is at the tailgate to raise money to offset the cost of Broad Fork, fencing to help control animals, and paying for organic compost. ” Thanks to this experience, Zimmerman explained the benefits of the response corps for interns – from learning effective farming techniques to understanding the importance of their work for the food chamber.
In January 2022, the Response Corps was confirmed for the third year. NC OSP and the head of the North Carolina / UNC government school named Zayn Carroll, a leading North Carolina staffer, as the program coordinator for working with higher education partners and internship sites to launch the third cohort.
The Response Corps builds on one of our country’s greatest values - students determined to make a difference – and connects students with organizations that need extra capacity.
An internship request form for the host organization for 2022 is now available. If you are interested in becoming a host organization, submit an application Trainee request form. This form will be completed in the Public Response Corps database used by colleges, universities and students. Students can contact the host organization directly here and it is suggested to re-check the database as new features become available.
Corps connects students and nonprofits who do internships in government agencies
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