Each summer for the past three years, the Johnston Center for Integrative Studies staff have worked with student interns on meaningful projects that benefit the Johnston community. Previous projects have included archiving historical materials and gathering content for the center’s library. These internships, made possible through alumni support, provide hands-on work experiences as well as income and housing.
A Johnston yearbook
Last summer, six Johnston students participated in the internship.
Thanks to an idea by former Johnston Director Julie Townsend, the focus of the work was to create a print publication for 2020 graduates to try and make up for the lack of an in-person commencement during the pandemic. Working with Johnston Assistant Director M. G. Maloney ’03 and Johnston Resident Director/Admissions and Alumni Coordinator Maggie Ruopp ’16, the interns created a Johnston yearbook, Porch Party MixTape, with personalized pages for each graduate and excerpts from commencement addresses by Professor Keith Osajima and Maxine Mchunguzi ’20.
“While we are physically separated, we found each intern could contribute to a single project remotely but still individualize contributions to their own interests,” Townsend says.
The interns, who also helped produce the Johnston alumni publication Coz McNooz, were divided into content creators and graphic designers. Content creators organized a call for submissions. For the graduation profiles, they reviewed photographs and Johnston graduation contracts.
The challenge was in collaborating remotely—yet closely. “We knew this was going to be a new and difficult experience,” says Shayla Dennon ’21, who is now proficient in Adobe InDesign due to the internship. “We would text each other questions and figure it out together.”
Kelly Sandoval ’21 also adapted to communicating virtually. “Although it was strange to be limited to Zoom or chats, the internship taught me that I could be collaborative in an artistic and visual way.”
Aria Hurtado ’21 appreciated the opportunity to help honor the 2020 graduates uniquely through the internship: “It helped me feel closer to the Johnston complex, which is my home and family,” she says. “It also gave [graduates] a sense of being honored individually.”
After the call for submissions was sent, Maloney received positive feedback about the book from several young alumni, and she hoped the book would give them a sense of closure and healing.
Addressing another need
In addition to gaining professional experience for their résumés, Townsend notes that the internship program had another vital outcome—helping to address student food and housing insecurity among the six interns.
“This is not a new phenomenon,” says Townsend, who recalls having a conversation with a 1970s Johnston alumnus who was homeless when he was a student. Ruopp says this need has grown over the past three years: “If you are not living somewhere secure or not sure when you are going to eat next, your academics will suffer. We have a duty to do something about that with the resources we have.”
Given the limited employment opportunities during the pandemic, the internship provided some resources to the interns. “Without this internship, I don’t know what would have happened this summer,” says Sandoval.
The internship program was born of a conversation between Townsend and
Larry Singer ’79 at the 50th Johnston Renewal dinner. Singer asked about current Johnston needs, and Townsend pitched the internship program. “The University and Johnston have done a terrific job using Cal Grants and other financial aid to provide opportunities for higher education,” says Singer, who made a leadership gift for the program with his wife, Patti Singer. “But for students who are homeless and food insecure between terms, there is a gap threatening that education. When we realized we could mitigate this issue with philanthropy, it seemed an easy call.”
Taylor Rockwell ’77 and his wife, Martha Wolf, also were proud to support the program. “My two years at Johnston were the most formative years of my life,” says Rockwell. “If our giving can help students have secure living space in the ‘off-season,’ that seems a small way to help them become their best selves.”
Johnston Director Tim Seiber ’04 recognizes the internship program’s long-term impact and is hopeful that it can grow and be sustained in future years. “Johnston values education within the context of a community, and the pandemic altered how we can engage as a community,” he says.
“Learning doesn’t just happen in nine months of a year—that’s not how our lives work,” says Seiber of supporting students over the summer. “We are educating the whole person, and we are putting our resources where our values are.”
To make a gift to the Johnston internship program, please contact Ericka Smith,
senior philanthropic advisor, at 909-748-8357 or visit www.redlands.edu/givenow.