Last spring, senior Christa Rodriguez went on Handshake, the internship database that Franklin & Marshall College’s Office of Student and Post-Graduate Development provides. As she perused the list, one job made her pause, then she applied – Make-A-Wish Foundation.
“I was a recipient so I thought that would help me,” she said.
For Rodriguez, the road to Franklin & Marshall College was arduous. At 17, in the summer before starting her last year of high school, she was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a form of cancer in the blood.
“I went into remission three months after I was first diagnosed, then I was diagnosed again when I was 18. I went into remission when I was 19,” the 22-year-old English major said. “My doctors told me I could not go to any campus where there are tons of germs. You can’t be around a lot of people that you don’t know.”
Her cancer forced her to defer F&M for a year. “That was kind of rough because your life is at a pause,” Rodriguez said. “You have to put on a brave face. You have that ‘fight-or-flight’ response where you just push through and push through until you’re good for a while.”
As a 17-year-old, Rodriguez was eligible for Make-A-Wish, a 38-year-old foundation that arranges experiences or “Wishes” for critically diagnosed children. She waited until she was in remission before she enjoyed her Wish, a trip to Disneyland.
A development intern at the Make-A-Wish’s Philadelphia office, Rodriguez interviewed families about their Wish experience and wrote stories that included photographs. The foundation used her work for public relations purposes to ask for donations or as blogs to garner support.
She found she was giving back to the organization as she spoke to 15 families who she connected with as a cancer survivor and a Wish recipient.
“I had both perspectives,” Rodriquez said. “Most of the children were pretty young, between 2 and 5, a few were teenagers or college-age. “A lot of families burst into tears because they go through difficult experiences when their child is sick or their child has a certain disease.”
Rodriguez, a tutor at the Writing Center and an editor for the College Reporter, said, “Writing is a love of mine.” She hopes to land a job at Make-A-Wish after she graduates next spring.
“I really enjoy nonprofit work, and I really enjoy helping people,” Rodriguez said. “I think that’s really important for me in my life. As an English major, I can do both – use my writing skills and help people.”
A Marshall Fellow, Rodriguez has turned her summer internship into her research project – tentatively titled “Behind the Wish: Examining Nonprofits and their Storytelling” – that she will present at F&M’s fall research fair this month.
She said of her work telling the stories about Make-A-Wish families, “It was really rewarding to be a part of that even though I wasn’t giving them the Wish directly.”