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Initiative hosts university interns from Z. Smith Reynolds and UNC service learning programs

Aug. 7, 2015 – The N.C. Community Development Initiative received valuable intern support for two key programs this summer thanks to service learning programs offered by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation.

Dylan Blackwell, an economics major at UNC-Chapel Hill, examined the economic impact of the Initiative’s loan programs as an APPLES Service Learning Program intern.

Geneva Holmes, a political science major from N.C. Central University, managed logistics and implementation of the Initiative’s 2015 Youth Leadership Program as a Z. Smith Reynold’s Non-Profit Internship Program intern.

The opportunity for these top university students to serve while learning proved extremely valuable for both students and the Initiative.

“I’ve learned a lot about the lending sector and the nonprofit sector, in general, as well as about affordable housing. That’s of interest to me because of its impact on the community,” said Blackwell.

“I learned about presentation and developing my image, how to plan an event that appeals to youth and CEOs alike, how important it is to apply my skills in a professional way, and how to form professional interpersonal relationships,” said Holmes.

The Initiative, meanwhile, received fresh insights, skilled assistance and the chance to introduce outstanding student leaders to the work of creating economic opportunity across North Carolina, said Initiative CEO Tara Kenchen.

“We applaud UNC and the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation for their focus on nurturing the next generation of leaders who will have firsthand knowledge of the challenges facing their communities and the innovative solutions our state’s nonprofits are offering to meet them,” Kenchen said.

UNC’s APPLES Service Learning Program provides intensive service experiences for UNC students by placing them in nonprofit and government agencies. Interns also take a service learning course and receive individualized academic instruction from a faculty member to expand the experience with the goal of helping them grow as community leaders.

Z. Smith Reynolds’ Non-Profit Internship Program awards 20 N.C. college students paid internships at ZSR-grantee organizations that are working to advance the foundation’s values in the areas of community economic development, public education, social justice and equity, environment and strengthening democracy. Students spend at least eight weeks working with host organizations and participate in on-going professional development throughout the summer.

Holmes’ internship supported the Initiative’s own service leadership program, which places two dozen rising high school seniors in six-week, full-time summer internships with high-performing community organizations across the state and provides leadership-building activities throughout the program.

“I interned at the Initiative because I was interested in working in the nonprofit industry,” she said. “Moreover, I found the Initiative’s mission to be unique. They are a lending nonprofit organization that also has a summer internship program for high school seniors across the state. I wanted to be a part of that mission to learn more about business relation development and event planning.”

Holmes, who has served as a resident advisor, member of the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities’ Student Judicial Board and on the programming committee for the Lady Eagle Development Mentoring Program while at N.C. Central and as press intern for N.C. House of Representatives Speaker Tim Moore, aspires to work in law, government and higher education during her career.

“I can see myself as a state representative, district attorney, residential life coordinator at a university and a professor,” Holmes said. “An internship gives one the priceless opportunity to gain work experience all while revealing what could be a good career fit.”

Blackwell’s internship focused on collecting impact data from Initiative Capital, the Initiative’s lending arm, interviewing borrowers and researching and writing a white paper on the factors that contribute to the success of a nonprofit lender.

“I’ve always felt that service was an important part of what I’m doing, whether in my future career or through these internships,” said Blackwell. “This Initiative internship was my top pick because it aligned with my educational interests, too.”

A rising senior, Blackwell has studied international development, trade and politics as well as fiscal and monetary policy at UNC. His research project at the Initiative revealed how a lending organization can provide community benefit. One Initiative loan customer, for example, a nonprofit community development organization, received an Initiative loan for a commercial building to house its operations and that of a credit union, then attracted several commercial ventures to the property, increasing its economic vitality, Blackwell said.

“That customer stressed how important the Initiative has been to them and how much their loan had impacted the community,” said Blackwell. 

Learn more about these service learning programs:

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