AMES, Iowa -- This summer 23 Iowa State University students are working for Iowa organizations and businesses, donating time to community projects and discovering the benefits of being involved Iowa citizens. It’s all an effort by ISU Extension to keep college graduates in Iowa. Does it work?
Lindsey Black completed a Life in Iowa internship with Jasper County Extension during the summer of 2002. She graduated from Iowa State in 2004. This summer she is employing a Life in Iowa intern.
"The Life in Iowa curriculum taught me the importance of being involved in my community and encouraged me to want to make a difference in Iowa," Black said. "I enjoyed meeting wonderful people and learning the dynamics of community."
Black is now a membership/program manager for the Girl Scouts of Shining Trail Council in West Burlington. Black encouraged the council to hire Victoria Birkenholtz, a Life in Iowa intern, as summer equestrian director at Camp L-Kee-Ta.
"I decided to participate in Life in Iowa because I heard a lot of great things about it from the student who interned at my county extension office," said Birkenholtz, a sophomore in agriculture education.
Melissa Hackley, another Life in Iowa intern, hopes to work as an urban forester or naturalist in the Des Moines area after graduation from Iowa State. Hackley, a senior in forestry, is interning with the Polk County Conservation Board this summer.
"I want to stay in Iowa so I think the Life in Iowa program is a good way to make some professional connections prior to graduation," Hackley said.
Life in Iowa students take a college course to prepare for their internships. Hackley researched her employer and the community in which she would be working and learned more about Iowa, cultural legacies and communities. Hackley is taking another Life in Iowa course online this summer while working and donating 10 hours every week to her service project, removing invasive species from Jester Park in Polk County.
"It's very fulfilling knowing that you are doing something that is going to be beneficial to a lot of people," Hackley said.
The Life in Iowa program offers students a rigorous summer internship that includes paid work, academic credits and service work designed to engage them in all aspects of community living, not just the job.
Life in Iowa internships are typically 300 hours of paid employment and 100 hours of donated service over a 10 week period.
Tom Ligouri, ISU Extension program coordinator for Life in Iowa, believes that students receive unique benefits from participating in Life in Iowa internships. "The Life in Iowa experience gives students a much broader perspective of opportunities that exist in Iowa than the typical summer internship," Ligouri said. "The unique combination of a paid work internship, academic course and volunteer service helps students immerse themselves in the community. We want students to become acquainted with people, communities, organizations and business opportunities in Iowa and decide to stay after graduation."