June 03, 2014, BY Matt Hughes

Devon Bruzzone ’17 worked with children in Zimbabwe during a service trip she made while in high school. This summer Bruzzone returns to Africa with help from the Bucknell Public Interest Program.

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As college students around the U.S. head for warm ocean waves and white-sand beaches this summer, Bucknellian Devon Bruzzone will be testing water wells and getting her hands dirty in the soil of rural northern Zimbabwe.

Bruzzone, a rising junior majoring in environmental studies, will spend two months working with preschools supported by the J.F. Kapnek Trust in the southern African nation. Committed to promoting health education and research in Zimbabwe, the trust supports preschools throughout the country's remote rural regions. One way it supports those schools is by building and maintaining nutrition gardens and water wells on their grounds.

"I'll be looking at soil conditions and the kind of plants that would work best in the environment they're in," Bruzzone said. "I'll also be looking at water sanitation in their wells, and for the preschools that don't have nutrition gardens or wells, suggesting the best candidates for new ones."

Bruzzone is one of 34 undergraduates whose internship is supported by the Bucknell Public Interest Program (BPIP), a Career Development Center program that awards $3,000 stipends to Bucknell students who have independently secured full-time summer internships at public interest organizations, which often cannot afford to pay interns. Since 2004, BPIP has awarded over $800,000 to more than 300 students, according to Program Director Marilyn Shull. This year, the program will support Bucknellians working with organizations in 12 U.S. states, the District of Columbia, Canada and Zimbabwe. BPIP provides students valuable work experience to develop skills and strengthen Bucknell's reputation in the workplace.

Bruzzone traveled to Zimbabwe once before — during high school — to volunteer with the Kapnek Trust, but this time she will play a much more significant role in the aid it provides, drawing on her education and building skills for the career in humanitarian work she plans to pursue after graduating from Bucknell.

"To be given the opportunity to go back and work there is remarkable, and this program really made it possible for me," Bruzzone said. "Without the support I wouldn't have this opportunity."

Grace Elliott, a rising junior, will intern much closer to home — in her hometown of New Canaan, Conn., in fact — but her work's impact will be no less significant. Elliott will spend 11 weeks working full-time with Voices of September 11th, a nonprofit founded by Mary and Frank Fetchet, whose son, Brad Fetchet '99, was killed in the 2001 terrorist attack on the Twin Towers. The organization serves the ongoing needs of the families of 9/11 victims and provides support to communities in the wake of other mass tragedies.

"They share what they've learned through 9/11 with other communities and schools that are facing tragedies," Elliott said. "I think that it's very important, especially for smaller families that don't have as much of a community base for support. The organization helps them learn how to deal with these tragedies."

In addition to editing the Voices of September 11th blog and social media channels, Elliott will research security policies and recent tragedies such as the Boston Marathon bombing to help prepare the Fetchets for meetings, speeches and symposiums. As an education major with a minor in international relations, Elliott said she is deeply interested in security policy, especially as it relates to schools.

"A lot of times people don't want to be in a corporate office as an intern, sitting in a cube getting people coffee," she said. "I'll be interested in and learning from what I'm doing throughout the day."

BPIP is one of several ways the Career Development Center helps Bucknellians find internships and gain real-world experience. Other career development programs include the Capitol Hill Internship Program, which connects Bucknellians with law-makers and legislative committees in Washington, D.C., and summer networking events in Washington, D.C., and New York City that connect undergraduates with alumni.

See the full list of BPIP interns and where they're going.