Allie McCann ’22 facilitates and coordinates the Micro-Business Assistance Program at Mercy Corps NW in Walla Walla, WA

The greatest gift my parents gave me is entirely intangible and sometimes very reluctantly received. This gift was bilingualism. My father was born and raised in Guadalajara, Mexico and my mother, although born and raised in small town southern California, speaks Spanish fluently having graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Spanish. When my parents decided to have kids, they knew that they wanted them to be bilingual, so I only spoke a few works of English until I was sent off to preschool. At home, we were expected to speak Spanish all the time, something that me and my siblings felt was so tiring that that my parents eventually had to institute a 10-push-up rule for speaking English at home. And so, for a long time I didn’t really recognize what a gift Spanish was. Now, as I work as an Intern for Mercy Corps NW in Walla Walla, I use my Spanish during most of my working hours and am often struck the gift that is being bilingual.

My name is Allie McCann and I am rising junior French and Politics double major with a Global Studies Concentration. As I mentioned, I am working as an intern for the Walla Walla branch of Mercy Corps NW, which is yet another branch of the international nonprofit, Mercy Corps. In Walla Walla, Mercy Corps NW runs the Micro-Business Assistance Program which provides business education and small business grants to low-income entrepreneurs in the Walla Walla Valley. Our location, where many residents of the valley are Spanish speakers, means that speaking Spanish and English is both a helpful skill and a privilege.

In my role as an intern I work with the program director to facilitate and coordinate the Micro-Business Assistance Program and help with program outreach. My day and work are conducted remotely which means a whole host of challenges but usually means a number of different types of projects. The most constant factor of my day is having video calls and sending emails, the latter seems a dull but inescapable fact of work life and I am increasing convinced that we do not get much better at responding to emails with age. The best part of my day however is working with the program’s entrepreneurs. We recently had a showcase where each participant gave an “elevator speech” about their business to simulate a focus group. Leading up to the showcase I noticed how proud and nervous each student, with ages raging from their late 20’s to early 70’s, was to about be presenting about their business. Each of them has so much to offer to the community and to each other. I hope that like them I will continue to keep learning and taking risks, no matter where I am.

Experiences like Allie McCann’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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