Confessions of a Non-Profit Intern
My name is Sarah Mosley and I was born in Berkeley, California, a place of rich culture, community and natural beauty that has shaped me into the passionate, environmental activist I am today. Because my mother was a wildlife biologist, I grew up with an avid curiosity and adoration of the natural world--not only the one I saw in the pages of nature magazines like national geographic however, but the one I visited everyday, in my backyard. As a kid I spent countless hours exploring the beautiful Northern California ecosystems of the Bay Area and rescuing any injured animal that crossed my path. In high school, I found my voice by advocating for environmental protection as a leadership advisor and club president. Through this journey, I discovered that though there is a tendency to look far and wide for your passion, oftentimes it has been blossoming in front of you all along. Interning for Earth Team, an environmental non-profit in the heart of Berkeley, during my last summer before college has exposed me to this idea in very profound ways. I will never forget the many people and experiences that have inspired me to believe in my dreams, and my work with Earth Team nearly tops the list.
This summer wasn’t my first time working with Earth Team. I had stumbled upon their organization during my junior year while seeking out community support for my environmental work at Berkeley High School. I had applied to be a member of Earth Team’s Youth Advisory Board and soon enough found myself surrounded by equally passionate environmental leaders from all over the bay area who were fighting the same bureaucratic battles that I was. Within months of joining the board, I felt hugely inspired to continue my sustainable efforts, because I no longer felt alone.
The Youth Advisory Board and I were also responsible for hosting Earth Team’s annual LEAF conference (Leadership and Environmental Action Forum). This experience allowed us to pass on the empowerment, that Earth Team had inspired in us, to other students who were passionate about protecting the planet but lacked the confidence or leadership skills to catalyze progress in their local schools and communities.
As my final year of high school and YAB was coming to a close, I decided that I would offer my services to those who had helped me succeed. I reached out to local organizations and asked if I could volunteer for them over the summer in the form of a paid or unpaid position. Soon enough, Earth Team had offered me an internship and I couldn’t have been happier to give back to an organization who had already given so much to me.
Upon my arrival at the office on my first day, I couldn't help but notice the wealth of resources, community support and natural beauty that surrounded the office. Just around the corner from the workspace were the offices of the Sierra Club, Ecology Center, Save the Frogs and a handful of other social justice organizations. This place lived and breathed Berkeley.
At the onset of the summer, I had no idea how a non-profit operated. From my previous experiences with Earth Team, I assumed that it was smooth and easy. All of the staff members were fun and happy, always finding new ways to get their students inspired and motivated about social change. Getting paid to make the world a better place seemed stress-free and rewarding.
My first task as an Earth Team intern was to scan grant reports and upload the files into the company database called Salesforce. As I was going through this mundane yet satisfying activity, I noticed that the grant money that Earth Team relied on was inconsistent year to year. This meant that the Earth Team staff would apply for grants from various organizations every year, with no idea how much money would actually be allocated to them. What if a consistent donor failed to provide as much as they had the year before? After asking the staff about this, I discovered that, luckily, Earth Team does effective, trusted work and therefore has consistent donors and enough money every year to operate. However, I realized that if I worked at a non-profit, I would be stressed out by the simple fact that my company’s funding was unpredictable to any extent.
I now had a new appreciation for the staff of Earth Team. Their work is inspired by improving the world and inspiring young people, rather than making a profit. This act alone not only requires courage, but wisdom and selflessness.
I completed other projects too, like re-designing the High School Cork board, which the staff of earth team used to layout their projects throughout the school year (see below), transferring Green News posts from one website to another and internet inventory. I learned how to program, take artsy photos, network on social media and create this blog post! Strangely, though, the task that stuck with me the most was my first (grant work) though it was by far the least fun or glamorous.
Catching a glimpse of the proffessional world through the lens of a non-profit orgnaization, through my work with Earth Team, has been one of the most valuable experiences I’ve had in a work environment. I learned important lessons about myself and the world around me, without travelling far to experience it. In less than a month I will be leaving Berkeley to attend college in Los Angeles where I plan to continue my activism and fight for environmental justice. Thanks to Earth Team, I won’t be totally lost in this new world of possibilities.