Nate Freed '21 had almost no experience working with children — until he took charge of a summer camp for underprivileged youth, often single-handedly running programming he developed for as many as 30 campers.
Freed's job with Mosaic Community Land Trust in Pottstown, Pa., was supported by a grant from the Bucknell Public Interest Program (BPIP) internship fund, which provides $3,000 scholarships to about 40 undergraduates who work with nonprofit and public sector organizations in the United States and abroad.
Find Your Path
On Sept. 11, BPIP interns gathered at Bucknell's Elaine Langone Center to share their experiences, which were varied and sometimes far-ranging. For example, this year's interns dove to plant coral off the coast of Florida, assessed mental health issues in the Dominican Republic, and worked on the relocation of more than 13,000 households in a part of Rwanda at risk for landslides.
"Without the BPIP scholarship, I probably wouldn't have interned for Mosaic, and the organization wouldn't have been able to offer camps," said Freed, who plans to major in English–creative writing. Explaining that Mosaic, which operates community gardens that were the camps' focus, only has one full-time employee, he added, "The kids wouldn't have had the experiences that they did."
Freed noted that he formed a connection to Pottstown while attending a nearby boarding school and wanted to give back to the community, which has suffered economically since the decline of the steel industry. Running the camps enabled him to teach young people about healthy eating, the benefits of being active and the fundamentals of gardening.
"I wanted to make sure there was always some sort of learning going on," he said. "But we also had fun. We grew plants that they watched throughout the summer. At the end, we harvested vegetables like zucchini, eggplants and tomatoes. They really loved it."
For Assumpta Gasana '20, a BPIP scholarship enabled her to work with an agency serving residents of her home country of Rwanda while she gained experience related to her major, civil engineering. As an engineer assistant with the Rwanda Housing Authority, Gasana helped to design homes and conducted property-value estimations in the field, with the goal of relocating residents in a landslide-prone area. She was also able to attend meetings with government officials, a highlight of her summer experience.
"Sitting around the table with people in high places and getting to learn from their expertise and ask questions was really valuable for me," she said. "And all that was made possible by BPIP."