Belinda Vang

Intern Name: Belinda Vang

Major: Gender Studies

Title/Place of Internship: Nutrition Program Advocate/Second Harvest Heartland

How did you find out about your internship/fellowship/etc.?

My family has a stand at the farmers market in the twin cities and we usually donate our vegetables at the end of the day. Our first year we donated our vegetables to Second Harvest Heartland, as farmers and donators we got t-shirts from them. Since then I have wondered about their company and what they did. I reached out to them and was offered a full time internship position with their NAPS (Nutrition Assistance Program for Seniors) program.

What were your responsibilities at your internship/fellowship/etc.?

During my internship I had a handful to do that had hands-on experience in a fast-paced environment. As an intern I provided direct service to clients during the distribution of commodity boxes and farmer’s market coupons. The farmers market coupons are used at participating Farmer’s Market for participants to purchase fresh nutritious produce. I was able to learn more about the behind the scenes at second harvest heart land, experience with client registration administrative work during an outdoor and offsite setting and work with volunteers. I was able to also do some research on the program as well learning about the gender dynamics of the clients that were part of the program.

What was the most beneficial aspect of your experience?

The most beneficial aspect of my experience was being able to stay in the loop during my internship and learn quickly. Being able to learn quickly was beneficial because you learn the in and out faster and are able to help multiple clients. By doing this I learned to ask all the questions I had at the beginning and when I had the slightest feeling that something was not right. This is was beneficial because July was the most busy month we had and it was important to keep the flow going so that we do not make clients wait for long hours.

What was the most surprising thing you experienced or learned during your internship/fellowship/etc.?

One thing I learned was that the smallest act of kindness had an impact on one individual. Making their day ten times better than before they arrived at our location. I've learned that every since we were born our parents and teachers have been telling us to treat others how you want to be treated. This summer when I learned this, I realized that regardless of who you are, treating others how you want to be treated goes a long way.

Food is also something surprising I learned this summer during my internship. Food insecurity is important and so many people face it daily. I learned to organize frozen food in the freezer, food is still good for a few days after its over due date. If you can eat that food win in a few days to a week it's still good. This made me realize that as individuals who throwout perfectly good food each day. It has made me learn to value my food and only buy what I will eat, not to waste.

How can you apply what you experienced at your internship/fellowship/etc. in the future?

My experience at my internship has made me realize that I am often sometimes scared to tell peers working together how something should be done and be less passive. For the future, to be a better leader I need to tell peers what they are doing is wrong. Being a leader is not all about being able to have good results but while getting to your final results you are doing the job in a ethical way. With my fellowship with the Center for Ethical Leadership in Action I have learned to value my experiences and that there's a learning opportunity for everyone regardless of what you do. My time and my experience with Second Harvest Heartland has help guided me into being a better person and a real world experience. Being able to value my education and experience is something that I will apply and take with me into the future.

What advice would you offer to future students interested in this experience?

I think a piece of advice that I would give students who are interested in this experience is to be open minded when you begin your internship. This is important because you will learn that there are many different types of people, some who you may not get along with. Learn to be able to work with them and be patient. Also, when looking for an internship it's okay to not hear back from them, just reach out them to see if they've gotten your application. Sometimes you need to go the extra mile if you want to get an internship that you really want.

(October 2018)