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Abigail Simmons

Professional Leadership Development Internship
Program Participant
So much can happen in one year. It was one year ago, on May 24th 2011, that I came to my first Phelps Stokes intern orientation along with about 10 other young people. As this was my first experience interning for an NGO, I was nervous. I was hoping that I would just get through the first day without making any mistakes, little knowing that I would still be working for Phelps Stokes one year later. It might sound nice if I said that I have not made any mistakes during my time here.

However, the truth is that Phelps Stokes is a place that bestows true responsibilities on their interns and allows them to make mistakes and take chances as they tie their work to their own personal passions and interests. So I can thankfully say that, I have had glitches along the way which have allowed me to have many learning experiences, many successes, and even more opportunities to grow and develop during my year at Phelps Stokes. In summary, I have planned discussion events, helped in the creation of a website, corresponded with foreign partners, traveled to West Africa, and even represented one of our programs at the UN. While reflecting on my recent experiences, I can easily say that I am a different person than I was a year ago due in large part to my internship.
I began my internship as a database intern but was slowly given more administrative work and eventually began working on non-digital communications for the Africa programs until I recently became an assistant to the head of communications at Phelps Stokes. My co-interns and I were able to attend lunches each week with NGO professionals with diverse backgrounds and an array of careers, which allowed us to ask questions and further explore our career interests while building constructive relationships with international NGO experts. I learned much about West African and French culture, as many of my co-interns were from France and Senegal and as I participated in planning events for our programs in Benin and Senegal. In October I participated in the Global Youth Innovation Network workshop fair and conference in Cotonou, Benin and am now a GYIN ambassador and liaison to Phelps Stokes. I continue to create relationships with translators for many of our documents and marketing materials which need to be rendered in French, Spanish, and Arabic and I continue to communicate with program participants all over Africa, Europe, and Latin America on a daily basis. I know with certainty that my experience as an intern at Phelps Stokes is in no way unique in comparison to my fellow co- interns, although, as I have met other young professionals in DC who make copies and answer phones all day, it is extremely unheard of elsewhere.
 This internship has given me unique exposure to international development work and the ability to pursue my academic and professional interests while also gaining hands-on, practical experience in serving marginalized communities. However, the thing that has made the greatest impact on me is the leadership and encouraging zeal of young people around the world and in the Phelps Stokes offices who are determined to empower their fellow entrepreneurs and generate positive change in their communities. Even the interns that worked for Phelps Stokes last summer have gone on to pursue their careers while remaining connected to Phelps Stokes because we have all built lifelong friendships with each other. This is one reason why I desired to continue my internship into my fall and spring semesters this past year. I realized that my internship was the best lens through which I could continue my studies in International Affairs.  I have cultivated deep connections with passionate people and continued my interests through this internship. Needless to say, I am excited to see where this next year at Phelps Stokes takes me.