One of the first things I noticed about Texas is that the squirrels here are significantly smaller than their counterparts in Ann Arbor – so much for “Everything is Bigger in Texas”. I am now entering my 4th full week of my summer internship experience in Sugar Land, Texas. Attached to this post is a picture of me in front of an oil drilling rig, which I promise is related to my internship in mobile application development for CollegeCommunityCareer – a nonprofit whose mission is to increase college access and success to underserved (usually first-generation, low-income) populations in the Houston area. Some background is definitely in order. I am a rising junior studying Informatics with a concentration in Life Science in the College of Literature, Science, and Arts at the University of Michigan. High social-impact work has always excited me. When an opportunity came up to apply and build upon my technical knowledge in a nonprofit setting, I knew it was something that I had to chase.
My project of focus during this internship is developing a mobile application that will help CollegeCommunityCareer (and hopefully other nonprofits and educational organizations) plan and execute field trips. Many nonprofits rely on meticulous planning, execution, and data collection (such as surveys) in order to accomplish their mission and remain competitive for grants. My mobile application seeks to be a one-stop solution for nonprofits. Here are some features I am working on:
- Using location tracking for issuing alerts to parents when it is about time to pick their child(ren) up from a field trip or to make sure that students are not going too far away from a field trip site without approval.
- Hosting surveys on a mobile interface to collect feedback from students after a trip (this should lead to higher response rates than just giving them a sheet of paper).
- The ability to issue alerts to chaperones, students, parents, or others on demand and/or by location
- Mobile permission-slip signing (it is hard to believe how common it is for students to forget to get their permission slips signed)
- Other mobile engagement
One of the philosophies that CollegeCommunityCareer emphasizes is that every employee, regardless of job role or function, participates on the front-lines of their mission, and interacts with the students in their programs. I have spent a good portion of my time in this internship, out of the office and on field trips – and it has been one of the most rewarding parts of my internship experience. I have had the opportunity to visit Texas Lutheran University and Texas State University with some students, and serve as a resource as a college upperclassman. I also have spent a good amount of time at the University of Houston in Sugar Land, TX with a program called “Take A Chance Me”, which gives students a glimpse into Digital Media and English coursework at the college level the summer before they head off to college themselves. So, back to that picture of me in front of an oil drilling rig. We took a career-oriented field trip to the Schlumberger Campus in Sugar Land, and I absolutely could not miss this photo opportunity. The student interaction component of the internship is interesting, and I have decided to marry the focus of my internship with it. I am bringing on a team of high school students interested in either software development or gtaphic design/art, and we will be working on this mobile application together starting tomorrow! Most of the students are coming in with limited or no programming experience, so I am excited to expose them to a whole new world of possibilities and potential academic pursuits and career opportunities. I think I will learn from them just as much as they will learn from me, and I will be a better software develop, product manager, and person as a result.