Even before some first-year students set foot on Hamilton’s campus for the first time, they get an email about the COOP Service Internship (CSI) program.
The program is offered through the Community Outreach & Opportunity Program (COOP) and pairs incoming first-year students with a four-semester, paid internship with community partner agencies in the Mohawk Valley. This year's group of first-year students are Lucas Barusek, Alejandra Pulido, Mckela Kanu, Lingli Zou, Aerin Cho, Joshua Doh, Amy Zhai, Lori Fejes, and Mary Kate Sisk.
While the program looks for students who have participated in community service, they also seek students who have taken initiative in their work.
According to Amy James, director of Community Outreach, the CSI program allows students to play an important role at their agency. “The agency generally has something that they are looking for that student to do once they get acclimated,” said James. “We always try to match students with the skills they come in with.”
Mckela Kanu ’22, works at For the Good, a nonprofit located in Utica, N.Y. The organization runs a radio station, a newspaper called the Utica Phoenix, and community garden. Not only does Kanu take an active part in deciding what is posted in the newspaper, but she is currently in the process of writing an article.
“My favorite part is interacting with my coworkers and people who come in from the Utica community,” said Kanu. “It’s nice to hear firsthand their experiences and ideas in a way I wouldn’t have been able to have done if I didn’t have this internship.”
Less than a five-minute walk away, Lóri Fejes ’22 works at the Rescue Mission of Utica and does work ranging from helping clients through the job search process to providing IT assistance. He also started helping out in the food pantry and tutoring clients in math or reading.
“I’ve met people whose lives differ so much from mine,” said Fejes. “It always reminds me to stay thankful for what surrounds me at home, or on campus.”
While students get an opportunity to explore potential career paths, they also interact with the local community.
“We really want students to see the bigger picture of what they’re doing. Not just going in and doing their task and leaving,” said James. “We want them to think about why people are in certain situations and how they can better help these communities.”
Aerin Cho ’22 works for On Point for College, which provides low-income individuals multifaceted assistance to help them dream and achieve higher education.
“We work with a lot of people, like politicians. I never thought of politics, but with working for On Point for College, I got to talk t to a lot of assembly members and senators” said Cho. “We have a connection now, they know me and I know them. So even when I’m not working for On Point for College, I can still have my voice be heard.”
James says she is always impressed by all the applicants taking the initiative to get involved in the community.
“There are many different ways to do that at Hamilton, but this is just one of the ways,” said James. “It deeply connects us with our community partners, in a way that a one-day service project might not do.”