Brit Stocks ’20 develops a volunteer-matching quiz and socializes pets in Walla Walla, WA

A “typical” day at Blue Mountain Humane Society (BMHS) does not exist. As a busy shelter with many moving parts, an interns’ day can involve several vastly different things. A day for me could include anything from taking a dog to a community event, writing promotional posts on Facebook, training volunteers, posing with a picture of a dog’s face taped to my forehead, or some combination of all four. The Humane Society has a lot going on due to their need to service the entire valley community, increase awareness of those services, raise money, and provide a good temporary home to many living things. This requires a lot of people doing a lot of different jobs. The day can be incredibly hectic, but I make an effort to cut out at least two hours to do two very different things.

The first thing I do is spend at least 30 minutes hanging out with a dog or cat. Usually, I will take a dog out to the park and play fetch with or pet them. They need all the attention they can get because most of their day is spent in a kennel. With the cats, I just lounge with them and give them their desired attention. The other thing I do every day is more of a learning assignment that I created in the style of an open-ended project. I was assigned to create a quiz that would match on-boarding volunteers with a volunteer position that would best fit their personality. My boss gave me free rein to figure out how I wanted to accomplish this task. I fortunately (or unfortunately) chose to make it challenging for myself. I decided, as a prospective minor in computer science (and very little practical knowledge) that I would code a quiz. I used what I had learned in a few CS classes to create the quiz using python, but then came the hard part…I had to be able to deliver a system to run the quiz without Idle, a program which would quickly run what I had already created. Unfortunately, their admin privileges wouldn’t allow me to download Idle, and this is where I made it harder on myself than I maybe should have. I decided that, in the interest of learning and making it easy for the Humane Society to utilize, I would make a website that could be accessed by volunteers who would then be able to take the quiz. I am far from a natural at CS, and I have never attempted anything close to software design, but I figured that if I had the time I might as well try and learn something new.

As the internship begins to wind itself down, I have learned a few things about website design: it is a lot of terminology and a lot of trial and error — at least for myself. I know already, a week or so before I end my summer at BMHS, that my project will not be done. My eyes were too big for this project, and I seriously underestimated the time it would take to learn enough about creating a website from scratch to then create the appropriate website to house my quiz. I intend to finish this task, though it’ll be a little off schedule.

I decided early on in the project that if I let it consume my entire day, I would never get anything else done that could be more vital to BMHS. I loved this quiz project and I loved working on it, but I could not let it take over my other tasks and responsibilities. I had to find the balance between working on something I wanted to work on and the things I needed to work on. Hopefully, when I do finish this project, my co-workers will be glad I chose to do it this way without sacrificing the other needed tasks. I also could not sacrifice my daily animal time: that was too precious.

Experiences like Brit Stocks’s are made possible by the Whitman Internship Grant, which provides funding for students to participate in unpaid internships at both for-profit and non-profit organizations. To learn how you could secure a Whitman Internship Grant or host a Whitman intern at your organization, click here or contact Assistant Director for Internship Programs Mitzy Rodriguez

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