Benefits Data Trust (BDT) partners with organizations — including Philadelphia Futures — to provide student internship opportunities, enabling them to receive on-the-ground experience and training in multiple career areas. Below one of our recent interns, Paula Garcia, shares her thoughts on her time with us.
Before interviewing with BDT for a summer internship, I did some research on the organization — just like any anxious, well-prepared interviewee would do. I learned about BDT’s mission to help people by simplifying benefits access and connecting them to a wide array of assistance programs.
The semester prior to interning at BDT, I took a human services course at my college, and learned about the world of nonprofits. During this course, it became clear to me that I wanted my work to be impactful — I wanted to do good, but I also wanted something that would combine my interests, skills, and background. I’m currently studying corporate communications, with minors in sociology and business administration. After interviewing and securing the Communications Intern role at BDT, I felt as if I had met my goal.
There was also another factor that made this internship at BDT even more exciting — the mission resonated with me. As someone whose family has received benefits for a large portion of their life, I personally knew the difficulty of obtaining benefits. And for my family, there was a language barrier; I often had stressful encounters applying and reapplying for benefits with my mother. I know the frustration involved in finding proper documentation, feeling the stigma of seeking benefits, and even not renewing or applying because of the difficulty in accessing them.
Interning with BDT meant that I not only had the opportunity to aid an amazing nonprofit, but to also work to help people with the struggles of navigating benefits. My work, and the work of my colleagues, can truly help to fix flaws in the benefits system and make access to these programs more equitable.
During my time at BDT, I became more acquainted with different happenings inside and outside the organization through several projects:
By listening to and transcribing our CEO’s interviews, I learned there are $60 billion in unused benefits left on the table, and I learned about the importance of investing in a middle school girl to help solve many of this country’s problems. In a media interview, Trooper Sanders said, “Public benefits are not about charity. Public benefits are really about the self-interest we all have in having a healthy, civilized, growing society, where everyone is able to meet their needs, where everyone is able to contribute, and everyone can help us grow and succeed.”
Therefore, investing in a middle school girl can help to improve not only her future, but the future of society.
By sorting through the client story bank — where we archive quotes from the people we help — and writing two of my own client stories, I learned about individuals who have experiences different from my own but are nevertheless struggling, and how BDT has made a lasting impact on their lives.
By gathering career bios for colleagues across the organization, I learned that an individual's educational background doesn’t necessarily need to lie with nonprofit work, but can include studio art, marketing and even theater! One of my other favorite things about BDT, other than its mission, is the diversity of the staff’s interests and talents.
It has been my utmost pleasure to work with an organization that has such committed individuals working toward the same mission to help people across the country. I have made some amazing connections with individuals on the Communications Team, and I want to specifically thank my supervisor, Kayla Gaskin, who has been of great support to me as I navigated BDT. Thank you, BDT, for this experience!
Paula Garcia is a senior at Lycoming College in Pennsylvania. On campus, she is the chapter president of her sorority, Alpha Sigma Tau, and works as a Circulation Assistant at the campus library. In her free time, Paula enjoys baking and spending time with her family and friends.