The National Low Income Housing Coalition is fortunate to have great interns every semester and summer. Over the next several weeks, each of our summer interns will share their experiences at the Coalition with you. Think interning with the Coalition might be for you? Learn more here!

Coming off of a semester I was less then satisfied with this past spring and having burned out on the camp counselor game, I knew that I wanted to take on a new type of challenge that would help push me in the right direction for the remainder of my college experience. I began to research a program that I had heard about during a youth group trip to Washington, D.C. in high school, known as Machon Kaplan.

In association with The Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism, Machon Kaplan is a unique program that brings together Jewish, social justice-oriented college students to the nation’s capital, provides with them an internship in a local organization whose focus is on public policy, and also offers two distinct upper-division level courses to be taken for credit. Having fallen in love with D.C. during prior visits and having a passion for social justice, the decision to apply was not that difficult. After a lengthy application process, I was one of twenty participants chosen to join the Machon Kaplan Summer Internship Program this year.

Homelessness is an issue that has resonated with me since my first trips to Washington, D.C., and something that I wanted to be able to stand against. I was soon thrown into a list of names to be interviewed at the National Low Income Housing Coalition. After some frantic research about the organization and a couple of phone interviews, I was selected as the Administrative Operations Intern for my six-week stay in this city.

Never having worked in an office before, I was more than nervous coming in on my first day. Every movie and TV show that I had ever watched made being an intern seem worse than the lowest depths of hell, and coming in that first day was something I will never forget. As I was escorted up to the sixth floor—where I had my own cubicle, computer, phone and business cards— I soon realized that I wasn’t at summer camp anymore. However, as soon as I sat down with my supervisor, most all of my fears and worries disappeared.

Exploring what my main role would be during the summer, I started to realize that as opposed to falling asleep through 9 AM calculus class, I was actually going to be learning and absorbing the day-to-day workings of a nonprofit organization. I felt like I was a part of a greater whole, that I was making an impact, and that I had a hand in moving the organization forward.

I really had the opportunity to explore the different aspects of the day-to-day happenings of a nonprofit organization, as well as work with most of the different departments and teams on staff. From being part of the Thursday morning staff meetings to seeing what it takes financially to run an organization, to helping create a manual for all the NLIHC’s partner organizations, to going out to happy hour with the staff, I got to do it all.

Every day I worked with the NLIHC brought me some sort of new challenge and pushed me to think critically in a way that I hadn’t the previous semester. For the first time, I felt like I was doing something substantial on a large-scale level; that although I once felt like I couldn’t do something to legitimately stand up for what I believed in, this summer showed me that I can.

What this summer really comes down to for me is the fact that I can be a part of something bigger that can truly impact the lives of people throughout the nation and that every role can be an instrumental one.