Hometown: Alexandria, VA
Minor: Poverty and Human Capability
Why did you apply for this particular internship? I knew that the Shepherd Alliance internship would give me the unique opportunity of seeing and experiencing many of the topics that we covered in the Poverty 101 course. For me it seemed like a great next step to enrich my studies.
How did your work apply to your studies at W&L? My placement at Cooper's Ferry Development Association allowed me to have experiences that correlated with both my studies in economics and poverty. I was able to learn how an economic development non-profit worked and at the same time interact directly with Camden City residents.
What was the most unexpected aspect of your Shepherd Alliance experience? The number of different experiences I had. When people ask me about my summer I feel like I could talk forever about my time at Cooper's Ferry.
Favorite Campus Landmark: The Dick Miller Cross Country Course
After a long, exhausting two months away from home, I spent my first evening watching the Washington Nationals play the Philadelphia Phillies on TV. Following one of the commercial breaks, a familiar view of the city of Philadelphia was shown on the screen: the picturesque view from Camden, New Jersey. This view was ever-present during my eight week Shepherd Alliance internship in Camden. On my walk to work, from our apartment window, and on my evening runs I could see the Philadelphia skyline. Seeing this image from home in Alexandria, Virginia struck a chord for me; while the majesty of the Philadelphia skyline was in full view, the deep poverty and amazing potential that I associate with that perspective was nowhere to be seen.
Camden has a surprisingly rich history as a booming industrial city, home to RCA/Victor and Campbell's soup. Following widespread white flight and the departure of its industrial base, Camden was on a quick decline. Problems of crumbling infrastructure, government corruption, drug use, and gang violence piled on over the years and gave Camden the reputation it has today. During my internship this summer I was able to see and be a part of Camden moving in a better direction.
Cooper's Ferry Development Association is a nonprofit that provides community and economic development to downtown Camden and each of the different neighborhoods. Their work includes, but is not limited to, establishing large-scale attractions such as the New Jersey State Aquarium and the Susquehanna Bank Center, planning and implementing infrastructure improvements along the City's main thoroughfares, managing a forgivable loan program for homeowners, and creating long-term neighborhood plans. I was able to work a little on each of the current projects, attending and helping run community meetings as well as meeting with builders and contractors for the different projects. Working in this office gave me a look inside a small, energetic nonprofit with big impacts in the community. It was an exciting time to be an intern at CFDA because signs of their success are everywhere and their current projects are making great strides towards improving Camden.
While the news stories may depict a city that is stuck in a cycle of violence and poverty, my experiences this summer showed a city full of passionate residents and energized leaders who are dedicated to revitalizing Camden. Living and working in the city of Camden was an eye opening experience that I will carry with me through the rest of my studies at W&L and into professional life.