Erica, Maguire Fellow in North Texas

Erica is a senior majoring in psychology and sociology in Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences. She was awarded a Maguire and Irby Family Foundation Public Service Fellowship for summer 2014 from the Cary M. Maguire Center for Ethics and Public Responsibility at SMU to intern at ManeGait Therapeutic Horsemanship in McKinney, Texas. Erica plans to focus on fundraising, grants and event planning, while also volunteering in the nonprofit’s lesson program.

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It’s August?

I blinked, and suddenly less than a month remains before my internship at ManeGait ends and I start my senior year at SMU. I’m already feeling a bit anxious about the transition, mainly because I know that come late August, I’ll no longer be waking up every morning to go visit my own little slice of equine heaven. Luckily, the ManeGait family has reassured me that I can still come back anytime I need that peaceful retreat.

The past two months of my internship were split up into two very different types of experiences. During the first half of my internship, riding lessons were in session. This is why my last entry was so heavily focused on the amazing experience of volunteering and working with the riders out at ManeGait. Without even knowing it, I fell right into the pattern that the rest of the ManeGait volunteers and staff have adopted. When lessons are in session, it’s all about the kids. Of course, while everyone is still doing what’s necessary to keep the business side of the nonprofit running smoothly, it is certainly not the main focus.

It is difficult to put into words the level of dedication I’ve seen from the staff and volunteers when it comes to the riders. No matter their job description, almost anything can be set down if a rider is in need. Many days, if a volunteer can’t make it to a lesson for some reason, our volunteer coordinator calls upon staff members to set down their work and go out to volunteer in the lesson. Without enough volunteers, our riders can’t take lessons, and nobody at ManeGait will stand for that.

The second ‘phase’ of my internship began when the summer lesson session ended, a transition accompanied by a total shift in the atmosphere at ManeGait. When the riders are on break, we get down to business. Although it may not be as fun as getting to participate in lessons and bond with the riders, the work that I’ve been doing behind-the-scenes is just as rewarding.

Everything I’ve been working on, such as donor relations, gathering auction items for our upcoming gala, writing and editing grants, PR efforts, database and website updates, etc., has not only given me valuable experience in the independent sector, but also has allowed me to contribute to the organization in a whole new way. The people I work with have shown the same amounts of teamwork and camaraderie in the business side of the nonprofit as when we are out at the barn with the riders, all because of the overarching dedication to the ManeGait mission that we all share.

I can’t wait to see what this last month has in store for me. We are fast approaching the biggest fundraiser of the year, Gala at the ‘Gait, and everyone is kicking it into overdrive as we send out invitations, make facilities arrangements, plan for the food, entertainment, and décor, etc. Although there is a lot of anxiety surrounding the Gala, it stems from the underlying desire to execute a perfect event and raise money for the further development of the program. I feel so lucky to be able to see every side of this fantastic nonprofit, and will continue to absorb everything I possibly can before I have to say goodbye for now.

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