June 6, 2014
Kyle Alsheskie and Alissa Castellanos, rising seniors at Albion College, didn’t have to travel far to complete a rich experiential learning opportunity that allowed them to grow as individuals, build their résumés, and make important career networking contacts.
The Britons found internships through the Chicago Center for Urban Life & Culture—Alsheskie held an accounting role with The League of Chicago Theatres, while Castellanos helped plan events for Soul City Church—and the real-world experience continued outside of work as they explored metropolitan living with students from other colleges interning through the Center.
An accounting major, Alsheskie worked for an organization that serves a membership of more than 200 theatres, ranging from community theatres to major cultural centers. The organization, which helps in ticket sales and co-op advertising for shows, had a pressing need for an accountant.
“The accounting person had just left, so I was thrown in right away even though I had never done anything like this before,” Alsheskie said. “I’m a quick learner, and equipped with a good supervisor, it was easy to catch on. It helped me have a good workplace experience.”
Alsheskie, who hails from Waterford and plans to sit for the CPA exam next summer, said learning accounting software and processes were among the skills he gained that will prove helpful as he launches a job search his senior year. But while developing accounting skills was important, he says he gained just as much outside the office.
“Alissa and I lived with eight others,” Alsheskie said. “I made friends and learned to cook for 10. We would make dinner and sit down together. There were student teachers and communication majors. It was cool to hear everyone share their stories.”
The semester off campus also helped ignite Alsheskie’s passion for his final year at Albion, where he is a three-year letter winner with the men’s soccer program.
“I missed seeing friends and playing soccer with teammates,” Alsheskie said. “It was a short walk to the University of Chicago gym and [team captain] Charles Micunek was on my back about the offseason work. I learned not to take this last year for granted.”
Castellanos arrived in Chicago with experience in events, but that was not comparable to working with an organization where she put on an event which drew nearly 3,000 people in the West Loop of Chicago.
“I was put in charge of multiple volunteer teams, advertising, as well as donations and fundraising," said Castellanos, a mass communication major from Battle Creek. “One of my main goals was to make sure the volunteers had a positive experience and that they felt they were vital to the success of our event. Soul City Church provided a great learning experience that helped me grow my skills and my confidence. I made awesome connections—a lot of people in the church are very involved with the community and know that if I ever go back to Chicago, I have a family there.”
While managing volunteers was a focus of hers, Castellanos also learned how nonprofit organizations pull off events on a limited budget. She organized small group challenges, made calls, and wrote letters to get donations to create a successful event on a slim budget.
Castellanos interviewed with another organization before agreeing to intern at Soul City Church. Along with learning from her mentors at Soul City, she discovered that working for community-focused groups is her passion, and she is eager to begin her job search before she graduates.
“Internships are all about learning. Sometimes they help you understand what you want in a workplace," Castellanos said. "I found that the work environment is very important to me as well as the culture within an organization. Finding the right fit for an organization to work for is often trial and error.”