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September 1, 2014

Reflections on an Internship

by Christina Onderbeke

Interning as an Administrative Professional while being able to use my Graphic Design Degree at United Way of Sheboygan County was only one of the awesome benefits I have received this summer. It also opened my eyes to how many beneficial programs and non-profit organizations are available to the residents of Sheboygan County. I am a full supporter of many of the missions of the programs United Way supports.

Until working at United Way and completing research on Birth to Four Programs around the United States, I did not know the importance of such programs that teach parents to be their child’s first teacher, starting at birth.  These programs not only help parents, but they help children succeed in school and in life, benefitting the entire community.    

Another mission United Way supports is educating and supplying healthy foods to everyone, especially children and low-income families. United Way helped plan and fund the organizations that offered a free breakfast and lunch to any child to help combat hunger this summer. When children are hungry, they are less likely to focus and not able to receive the full benefit of their education. 

I was also asked to research what the national poverty level was for a family of four and then compare that to the approximate cost of living in Sheboygan. Even when both parents are working, I now understand why some families struggle to make ends meet month-to-month.  The cost of childcare, housing, food, car payments and miscellaneous items are already high, and keep creeping up higher, while the minimum wage, from 2008, stays the same. I do not have the answers but something needs to change, and hopefully United Way can bridge the gap.

Not only does United Way raise money for affiliate programs and impact investments, they also run the Volunteer Center of Sheboygan County.  Two of the events the Volunteer Center host is The Day of Caring and Jammin’ on the Shore. Although I was hired too late to help plan the events, I designed a billboard advertisement and postcard. I enjoyed utilizing my graphic design skills, and felt extremely proud after seeing the billboard I designed displayed on Calumet and 18th Street. I think the Day of Caring was one of the coolest events local businesses could participate in. Teams were paired with non-profit organizations or places, like the beach, to clean, organize, paint, replant, or in general fix up. The responses I read from this event were positive. Many agencies and volunteers would like to continue participating in The Day of Caring year after year. I enjoyed working the ticket booth at Jammin’ on the Shore; not only did I get to interact with my coworkers in a different, less structured environment, I also met Mason Crosby, the Packer’s kicker, (I’m still excited about it) and enjoyed great music.

Although we cannot fix every problem, United Way and its affiliate organizations, are laying down the groundwork for a better tomorrow for the residents of Sheboygan County.  I appreciate all the knowledge I gained from this interning experience, from learning about the poverty level, to seeing how much work is put into planning big events; I really learned a lot this summer.  Even though I only interned for a few months, I gained many new skills, made great connections with amazing people, and I am proud to tell people I interned for United Way of Sheboygan County.

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