Allison-Payton-Nicklin-sm.jpgAllison, a senior double major in CCPA and Economics, is interning with the Kenya-based NGO The Greenbelt Movement in London:

allison-westminster%20interns.jpgI hate to say it. But while sitting at my office today, considering all the work that I have been doing for the past five weeks, all the amazing individuals I have met, and all the theories that Prof. Flournoy, Dr. Kirk, Dr. Dixon and Dr. Lynch have strived to teach me over the past three years at SMU, I finally got it.

I have understood their theories and applications, and what they mean to the communication profession, but by working at the Green Belt Movement, I realized, even if you have the skills and the mindset to take on the challenges ahead of you, it is your heart, not your knowledge, that will get you through at an NGO.

I think that too often, when recounting our experiences, activities, and memories, we overlook the principle reason we are here: To be a force for change, and to lend our knowledge of the communication profession to those with the heart to make a difference in this world.

The eight of us have been working at various NGOs and social enterprises. Some, like GBM, and Mencap (Katie’s organization), have been functioning for over 30 years, while others – Offscreen Education Program (Ashlee) and Pants to Poverty (Rachael) – have come to life within the past five years.

The group reading for summer 2008, Amazing Grace, tells the rigorous story of British Parliament member William Wilberforce and his fight to abolish slavery across Britain. It took him 25 years, but he was only 22. I am 22. Some of my colleagues are older, some younger, but for the eight interns, he was our age when he plunged his heart and soul onto the political stage, standing up for the firm belief of equality.

Looking at his story, and the amount of ambition, determination, and belief he had that he could make a difference, showed me the positive change a 22-year-old could achieve.

If at times our work seems mundane: the research, the editing, the press releases, etc., I have realized that I am equipping my supervisor and a dedicated team of environmentalists with the background they need to (in the words of Gandhi), “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”

As SMU students I think we underestimate the power that we could have. I think we overlook the jobs available in nonprofits, because they lack the high status, big paycheck, 401k contract we are searching for at graduation.

This summer I have learned the ability 22-year-olds have to make a difference. I’m unsure if I will end up at a nonprofit again, but the lessons this experience has taught me – about an individual’s endurance, strength and determination to fight for a cause – will last me a lifetime.