Tracy Hahn '13 had to laugh.
After the Franklin & Marshall College anthropology major explained to newly arrived refugees that spitting in public is unacceptable in American society, their translator at Lancaster's Church World Service pantomimed the behavior. Even the refugees chuckled.
Hahn then continued to orient them to their new life. It was part of her work as a refugee resettlement caseworker, a job she had secured this past academic year through F&M Works in Lancaster, a paid internship program for sophomores, juniors and seniors. The program started last fall under the direction of F&M's Ware Institute for Civic Engagement.
Designed to build sustainable relationships between the College and the community, F&M Works in Lancaster also provides F&M students work opportunities at various nonprofit organizations where they can further develop leadership skills and awareness of community issues.
The two-year pilot program, funded in part by a two-year, $100,000 grant from the James Hale Steinman Foundation, pays student interns $10 per hour for 10 hours a week. They are required to work two consecutive semesters and attend professional development workshops and reflection sessions throughout the program.
"We feel that an ongoing commitment allows the students to take on significant projects and support the organization they are working with," said Lilah Thompson '11, the Ware Institute post-graduate fellow for human rights and social justice. "A main component of the program is for them to clarify their passions and career goals."
Interns involved in the F&M Works program said their work experience has given them insight into who they are and what they may or will pursue after college.
Hahn, who completed her internship prior to graduating on May 11, often worked more than the required 10 hours, helping refugees with basic living arrangements, paying bills, and overcoming language obstacles and culture clashes.
"She's great at what she does," said Andrea Miller, a resettlement case manager and Hahn's supervisor at Church World Service. "She's good at taking a lot of initiative."
Hahn said refugee resettlement services are not too far removed from her major, which focuses on the study of other cultures and languages. "I found anthropology very helpful in working with refugees," she said.
The F&M Works experience convinced her to pursue a career in refugee services. "I want to stay in refugee resettlement," Hahn said. "I'm looking for opportunities abroad."
Getting Real-Life Experience
F&M Works' first semester placed 20 students, 17 of whom continued in the spring semester. For the 2013-14 academic year, 40 students have been placed, the Ware Institute's Thompson said. They were chosen from a pool of 71 finalists. The institute received 276 applications.
Interns said what they find appealing and value most about F&M Works is the opportunity for hands-on work, Thompson said. "That's what most of them said hands down -- this is real-life experience."
At Lancaster General Health Wellness Center, Courtney Gregor '13 worked on a variety of initiatives and programs that promote and encourage better nutrition and eating among adults and youth, including community and schoolyard gardens.
"She has just become my right arm working with me," said Beth Schwartz, the healthy weight management coordinator and Gregor's supervisor. "She really has insight at her age to know when to ask questions and when to push me."
That is what F&M Works has strived for since reaching out to 67 community groups and receiving 55 requests from 38 organizations. "The whole goal of this program is to be mutually beneficial," Thompson said.
The organizations' fields have ranged broadly, from arts and business to health and youth development.
At Lancaster General, Gregor's responsibilities included helping compile an assessment report on ethnic disparities and obesity, creating e-newsletters on weight maintenance during the holidays, and conducting a school gardening forum.
A major in scientific and philosophical studies of the mind, Gregor said her passion for public health and a desire for "real-world experience" prompted her to apply to F&M Works.
Through her internship experience, she now views public health and community in the scope of the health care system.
"It's reshaped my interest and tossed up some ideas I hadn't been thinking about," said Gregor, who is now heading to the University of Chicago Human Performance Lab to study how children learn arithmetic skills. "I encourage other F&M students to pursue this internship."