PRSSA Kent State University
by Caitlin Potts
As an intern at the United Way of Youngstown and the Mahoning Valley this semester, I feel I’ve gained a great amount of experience. I was lucky enough to get a variety of responsibilities, which I think has made me even more well-rounded in this field.
At the start of my internship, the main focus was research and evaluation. Every year in January and February, the United Way reviews and evaluates past programs it helped fund through various local agencies. I managed its logic models about these programs and Annual Report card for 2013. My role during this project was researching the effectiveness of these programs, how much funding they called for and deciding what could be done differently. I found myself using skills I learned throughout Kent’s PR sequence. We’re taught early on about the importance of evaluation. I was commended on my work, and I feel good about it.
Additionally, I assisted in planning several events like the Annual Meeting and a large fundraiser with famous golfers Jack Nicklaus and Annika Sorenstam. I really enjoy planning events, and I made great contacts throughout the process. I also gained some media relations experience. I attended a conference with several other United Way employees where local media inquired about the Nicklaus and Sorenstam event. It was very interesting to get a first-hand look at the type of questions that are asked and the way an organization communicates with the media.
I learned a lot about thinking on your feet and making executive decisions. Those types of things have always been a bit of a struggle for me. I also learned the importance of asking questions. There is no right or wrong question, especially as an intern. Additionally, I found it interesting to observe PR outside the classroom.
I would advise future interns to understand the people at United Way are very kind and will be great mentors if you spend your time wisely as an intern. I would also tell them to avoid being afraid of getting involved at work. Employees love it when you walk around and see if anyone needs help or has a project for you to work on. It shows you care and want to be there. That’s really what this experience is all about.