COOP service intern Maria Saenz ’19 works on a staff project in a meeting at her internship at the United Way of Greater Utica.

Maria Saenz ’19 came to Hamilton with an interest in global issues. As a member of her high school’s Model UN, she had been exposed to various international topics and was looking to continue learning about immigration, poverty and women’s rights.

A COOP Service Internship (CSI) allowed Saenz to take her interests off the hill through an internship in Utica. Saenz works at the United Way, a non-profit organization focused on promoting positive change through “connecting people, resources, and ideas to create a thriving community.” 

The COOP CSI program enables students with an interest in community service to work in a paid internship in a nonprofit organization over their first four semesters.

Since being connected to United Way, Saenz has built her skillset in the nonprofit sector. She described the workplace as dynamic, with varying tasks, “some as simple as excel sheets, but more recently building logic flow diagrams to visually represent the initiatives of the organization and the impacts.”

At the United Way, she has learned more about how non-profits work from the beginning stages to how they culminate in solutions.

The United Way and Hamilton have a history of working together. Saenz also works with alumnus Kevin Alexander ’13 who studied sociology and Africana studies at Hamilton and now works on poverty reduction in Utica. Saenz plans to pursue sociology and highlighted conversations with Alexander about relevant coursework that could prepare her for a similar career in non-profits.

Saenz credits her experience at the United Way in Utica with encouraging her to get more involved in off-campus communities. She is also an active member in Let’s Get Ready, an SAT prep program for underprivileged high school students. This experience allows her to work more with people than her CSI internship, and she has able to see the intersections with direct interaction and her non-profit work.

CSI is designed for underclassmen, but Saenz plans to continue her involvement in Utica through On the Move, an on-campus group that works with the refugee community in Utica. Saenz’s interest in global issues has grown into a passion; she hopes to study abroad and pursue opportunities to continue to work actively as a problem-solver within communities.

Other Class of 2019 CSIs are: Maggie Horne, Jackie Bussgang, Jodi Weiss, Pascal Defines, Jerad McMickle, Claire Han, Meredith Jones, Sarah Kane, Andrews Aguilar and Jack Wright.

The Class of 2020 CSIs and the agencies at which they intern are:  Ballie Riggs, MUCC; Niamh Fitzgerald, Presbyterian Home; Devin Hebert, Rescue Mission; Katherine Barnes, Johnson Park Center; Xan Mullings, Thea Bowman-DeSales; Edgar Otero, For the Good; Cam Blair, Hope House; Grecia Santos, Utica City Hall; Livie Jacobs, Root Farm; Talea Shakun-Berkelham, Oneida County Department of Health.

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