Whitman Internship Stories – Katy Wills ’16

James JohnThe best feeling I’ve felt in my 20 years is passionately believing in a mission and being an integral part of making it happen. This summer I am interning with Girls Incorporated of the Pacific Northwest.

Girls Inc. is a national organization with over 300 affiliates around the United States. The organization’s work empowers girls to be Strong, Smart, and Bold. The organization is predicated on one fundamental idea—the power of her. This idea maintains that organically within every girl is strength, intelligence and boldness, and the purpose of the organization is to bring out those qualities in each girl it serves. Girls Inc. achieves these aims by providing hands-on programming for girls ranging in age from 6 to 18 and lobbying federal and local government to advocate for the rights and interests of girls. Girls Inc. uses research-based curricula to provide age specific and relevant girls discussion and activity groups, technology and adventure focused summer camps, workshops, conferences, and outdoor experiences for girls in the Portland area.

It’s tough to distill into a few words the parameters of my job because I meet weekly with my advisors and decide on projects to work on and programs to run. I come to them with my ideas and they help me figure out to make them work. As an intern I synthesized and implemented a curriculum for three girls groups. I lead the team in charge of pioneering a new curriculum based on literacy and self-esteem work for elementary and middle school girls. I was able to integrate the empowerment initiatives I connect with most closely—emotional awareness and intelligence and physical fitness and adventure—through this work.

In my internship this summer I have used nearly every aspect of my Whitman experience to help me succeed in my work. I used detail-oriented writing skills to compose and edit a piece that would welcome all future group facilitators to the organization. I used interpersonal professional skills I learned through my work with Model United Nations and my Whitman funded Congressional internship in Washington D.C. to thrive in an office environment. I used my residence life skills to help me be a well-rounded, compassionate, and organized girls group leader.

This experience has shaped my understanding of my future career aspirations. One of the most valuable parts of my experience has been getting to know the other women in my office. Some of my most precious time was the time I spent with the executive director conversing and learning from her. She gave me subtle yet helpful advice and encouraged me to play to my strengths. She inspired me to pursue an executive position like her own.

I learned that I needed to advocate for myself to make the internship what I really wanted it to be. My initial inclination was to do whatever could be most of service to the organization; however, my supervisors encourage me to make the internship whatever I want it to be. This means that I advocate for myself by setting meetings with the very busy executive director and asking to sit in on finance and program team meetinGI Logo and Tagline 2 (RED)gs to get a look at the nuts and bolts of the organization.

This summer I have learned to find more of my power than I knew existed. I’ve learned that I can pursue the things I really care about even if there isn’t a clear cut path to get me there. I am very grateful for the chance to be a proud part of the Girls Inc. community.

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