Working for the best kept secret

With summer quickly approaching, I was still unsure what I was going to do for the next three months. I received an email during the last week of school regarding a “Paid Summer Internship,” with the UConn Extension Department. I always knew Extension existed but wasn’t entirely aware of its significance. I did some research, decided to apply, and within a few weeks officially joined their team.

As I learned more about what is considered the “state’s best-kept secret,” I was amazed at what I found. Extension is composed of a vast network of outreach programming across every state in the U.S. including our own. The objective is to empower communities with the knowledge and expertise of major research universities in the areas of food, health and sustainability. The Extension program at UConn has over 282 active initiatives, with strong local ties to communities across the state.

During the internship, my main focus was The Connecticut Fitness and Nutrition Clubs in Motion (CT Fans IM), a 4-H club designed to teach 3rd and 4th graders nutrition, fitness and gardening, with the goal to alleviate the obesity epidemic through sustainable interventions. In addition to addressing obesity rates, all 4-H clubs aim to provide professional development and empowerment for its club members. High school students (the club members) were recruited by Extension Specialists to teach the nutrition, fitness, and gardening lessons for 3rd and 4th graders.

As an intern my role was to train the high school students to design and carry out their nutrition / fitness curriculum while also focusing on their personal and professional development. From group reflections to helping teach the material, I felt a part of what was a very dynamic program. I also realized how important my experiences from UConn were to my success. A key aspect of any internship is applying ones coursework (and extracurricular activities) to the “real world.” I can wholeheartedly say I did that with Extension. My major related classes proved to be essential when helping to design and implement nutrition and fitness curricula. Even the classes I took as electives, like EDLR 3263, a class on the art of group facilitation, were some of the most important tools I had for the summer. I felt my hard work, like taking those extra classes, was paying off. I was able to provide a wealth of experiences from UConn that came to fruition at Extension.

As I reflect on my time with Extension, I have nothing but good things to say. I met an amazing group of people, all working for the betterment of our communities. While I was able to contribute so much, I also learned a lot about myself and what I want my potential career path to look like. Just as “Extension ties research to real life,” interning with Extension brought my future aspirations to real life.