Senior Geography major Toni Andreina has found a way to turn her passions for community, gardening and sustainability into a potential career path. She spent winter and spring pursuing that passion as a McCormick Community Intern with the Peterson Garden Project (PGP). A Chicago nonprofit started in 2010, PGP spent the last four years opening eight “Pop-up Victory Gardens” on vacant urban land throughout Chicago. The organization's mission is to teach people how to grow their own food and inspire a new generation of gardeners. Additionally, PGP hosts a variety of classes and social events to foster the education and community aspects of gardening.
Toni began working with PGP during the Spring of 2013 and over the Summer and Fall continued her involvement with the organization as a volunteer. Now in her third quarter as a McCormick Community intern, her responsibilities have grown exponentially. McCormick Community Interns design their own advanced paid internship in collaboration with community partners and then revise the projects quarterly in order to be renewed for up to a full academic year. During the Winter quarter 2014, Toni worked with youth in the City of Chicago’s Greencorps Youth Program to develop a representative social space at PGP’s newest garden location at Howard and Ashland, the Hello! Howard Garden on Chicago's far north side. Toni believes that introducing Greencorps youth to PGP has shown the organization “the potency and meaningful value a strong community-based nonprofit can bring” while simultaneously broadening the appeal of PGP to a more diverse population.
As a Geography major, Toni has synthesized the skills she has gained from her undergraduate studies with her internship.
My DePaul coursework has been essential to my professional development with the Peterson Garden Project. The Geography Department at DePaul has fostered what was previously an unfocused notion of critical thought and problem solving. The department taught me how to analyze issues of a variety of scales with critical reasoning and analysis methodology that have been absolutely essential to my success. By empowering me with these analytical approaches and teaching me about systemic injustices existent in our (and many other) urban space(s), the Geography Department truly gave me the tools to build a successful, meaningful internship.
In addition to gaining valuable program development experience, the PGP internship gave Toni a chance to improve her networking and communication skills through collaborative work with the alderman’s office and other community organizations. In working with her supervisor, Lindsay Shepherd, Volunteer Coordinator at PGP, Toni says she has learned how to effectively manage volunteers. She saw how important it is to make volunteers feel welcome and that they are an essential part of the PGP team and how this motivates volunteers to accomplish specific tasks.
The internship was as beneficial to PGP as it was to Toni’s professional development. Toni was able to bring in her previous experience working with youth to show PGP how to create programming that will bring in a new demographic of potential gardeners. Lindsay noted, “There are certain programs, specifically the youth programming in the community area at Hello! Howard, that we would not even have felt confident taking on this season if it weren't for Toni. Her unique skill sets and the fact that she is self-motivated and dependable, allowed us to take on something that was out of our normal realm of possibility because we knew she could handle it.” Toni’s enthusiasm for her work with youth is apparent, and the staff at PGP cannot help but catch on to her energy.
For more on McCormick Community Internships, contact Howard Rosing (firstname.lastname@example.org) or visit McCormick Community Internships