Written by: Lesly Fuentes
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Researchers estimate that up to 1 million American’s work as unpaid interns each year. Without wages to shoulder the cost of living, an unpaid internship deepens the existing social divide. The road to making unpaid internships a thing of the past isn’t a smooth one. In some cases, particularly nonprofit organizations, simply don’t have the financial means to pay their interns.

Over the past couple of years, the Nonprofit Leadership Alliance helped to make these unpaid internships more accessible by offering the Career Development Award. This Award program was designed to eliminate the barrier of an unpaid internship at a nonprofit organization (in- person or virtual) and increase the diversity of the nonprofit workforce by providing $2,000 internship stipends for students completing their Certified Nonprofit Professional (CNP) credential.

One recipient, Lesly Fuentes, completed their internship with Bridge Refugees Inc. Here our Lesly’s three main takeaways from this internship:

During the Summer of 2022, I worked as an interpreter with refugee families who relocated to Knoxville. I had only ever interpreted for my own family, so it was a positive change to do it for other people. Before this experience, I had contemplated whether being an interpreter would be a career choice worthy of pursuing post-graduation. After spending time with one family in particular, and seeing their faces relax due to the interpretation I provided, I felt a warm sensation of satisfaction. It reminded me of when I would interpret for my mother at doctor’s appointments when I was younger.

Comprehension and understanding can be taken for granted when one goes through their day-to-day life to be able to communicate with those around them. However, for others who make the brave decision to leave the place they know and go to an unknown territory, understanding the foreign language around them can be a hurdle. This made me realize the privilege that comes with being multilingual and being able to comprehend multiple languages. After my internship, I felt encouraged to bridge the gap between the languages I understand.

Aside from the career opportunity that I was able to meditate on, I was put in a position to see firsthand that it takes a community to properly help distribute responsibilities so that one person does not feel overwhelmed. Though everyone had one goal in mind at the organization, no one person had the same task which allowed for individual creativity to take place without taking away from a collective effort to curate change. A key takeaway from my experience was that strength comes from empowering individuals rather than doing things for them. Bridge strongly promotes this concept, and I will take this idea with me wherever I go.

Lesly FuentesMeet the Author:

Hello! My name is Lesly Fuentes, and I am currently a first-generation senior at Maryville College majoring in Psychology with minors in Business and Spanish as well as pursuing the CNP credential.