Honestly, I wasn’t really looking forward to another summer in Cleveland. After all, Cleveland is my hometown, and I’ve spent just about every summer there for the past twenty years.
Despite my familiarity with the city, I applied to Summer on the Cuyahoga program (SOTC), hoping to find an internship that would polish my resume and at least rescue me from my regular summer job as a waitress.
“I learned an important lesson this summer: every new opportunity deserves an open-mind.”
At the beginning I was in doubt about my decision to join the 2016 SOTC intern cohort. My new roommates and I seemed to have nothing in common, I was nervous to start my internship at Urban Community School and, at first glance, my program schedule was pretty demanding. In sum, I thought that there was nothing that the program could show me about myself or Cleveland that I didn’t already know.
I was wrong.
My Cleveland State University apartment in the heart of downtown gave me a perfect view of the skyline, and although the landscape hadn’t changed, the city had completely revamped itself before my arrival. I had a front row seat to watch as Cleveland transformed to host the Republican National Convention and to celebrate the Cleveland Cavalier Championship that brought millions to the city. The excitement of downtown triggered a new curiosity for the place where I'd grown up.
I quickly began to appreciate my “demanding schedule” as SOTC gave me tons of opportunities to explore the hidden treasures of the area. With my fellow interns, I relived my childhood with a field trip to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, introduced my new friends to Colossal Cupcake, and explored the Botanical Gardens for the first time. The experience helped me realize that my view of Cleveland from the East Side was only one piece of the puzzle and that there was so much more to see.
SOTC gave me the chance to explore a city that I love and to immerse myself in a new and thriving professional world. As an intern at Urban Community School (UCS), I was able to learn more about Cleveland’s West Side and to build relationships with professionals from almost every sector.
I became part of a team of people dedicated to creating opportunity for Cleveland’s youth. My expectation was to work on data entry throughout the summer, but instead I was able to work with the development team to promote fundraisers, lead volunteer projects and assemble a new play area for younger UCS students. Although the internship wasn’t what I had anticipated, I was able to create a space that would impact kids from my hometown and get them excited about their education, which is more than I could’ve hoped for.
After working closely with my supervisor, I was given a variety of projects that gave me a chance to enhance old skills and to learn new ones. By week three, I had learned how to create advertisements and newsletters, interpret class test scores and create policy recommendations. Over time, it became clear that trust — my supervisor’s trust in me and my ability to trust myself — was the key to unlocking my potential and I started to grow in ways that were unimaginable.
While my days in the office were rewarding, the internship aspect wasn’t the only portion of the program that allowed me to grow. After work, interns were able to connect with professionals and alumni from the area.
The alumni dedicated their time to meet with me and talk with me about my career interests, who I should connect with, and how to refine my future career plans. They gave me tips on how to be successful in my fields and shared stories about their personal journeys to success.
Meeting professionals who once lived in the same dorms and sat in the same classrooms as myself gave me hope that all the early classes and late nights will pay-off. And being able to grab coffee with my alumni host and to meet other influential alumni in the area helped to ease my anxiety about “the real world” and my post-grad plans.
I learned an important lesson this summer: every new opportunity deserves an open-mind. I entered the program with low-expectations because I’d let my prior experience as a Clevelander determine my mindset.
The program allowed me to take a fresh look at the city and to recognize that there are great things happening in the community — socially and professionally. More importantly, I was able to build relationships with a diverse group of students from different schools and backgrounds.
The chance to explore Cleveland as a young professional allowed me to reconsider my hometown as an option in my post-graduate plans. I can honestly say that I no longer dread the idea of moving back home after college — in truth, I can’t wait.
Andrianna Peterson ’18 is a communication and anthropology and sociology double major.