This post appears here courtesy of ECU News Services
. The author of this post is Kim Tilghman
Going from a mostly online, data- and coding-focused environment to an in-person environment that deals with human emotion and well-being can be a hard transition to make. But rising East Carolina University senior Jasmine Johnson found the experience inspiring.
Recently a computer science and psychology double major, now focusing on psychology, Johnson was excited to learn of the internship opportunity at One Place through the State Employees' Credit Union (SECU) Public Fellows Internship program offered at ECU. Johnson has a deep interest in technology and enjoys learning coding and software programs. And, she knew the work being done at One Place was of great benefit to the community.
One Place, formerly the Onslow County Partnership for Children, is a nonprofit organization in Jacksonville that provides educational, prevention and intervention resources for families and youth. One Place connects families to early education programs and resources that support healthy development of family units and intercedes with a holistic approach to aid those who may have experienced abuse.
As with most nonprofits, fundraising and donations are the lifeblood to its operation and the vital services it offers the community. Over the summer, One Place transitioned to a new donor database system. The organization was faced with moving over 20 years' worth of donor and partner information to a different system, and they needed help to ensure the process happened seamlessly.
That's where the SECU Public Fellows Internship program was able to assist.
The Public Fellows Internship program connects undergraduate students with area organizations to help them with priority projects that promote community development while also providing students with real-world experience in the workplace.
Jennifer Johnson, vice president of advancement at One Place, said, "Jasmine came to us at a very unique time. We were transitioning from one customer relationship management donor database to another, and she was integral in helping to clean up some of the data. Because no matter if it's a donor database or an accounting system, whenever you switch from one software to another, the data never transfers like you want it."
"We had to enter over 3,000 donors and meticulously cross check each one in different programs to make sure that all of the data transferred accurately,"
Jasmine Johnson said. "Because if it isn't accurate, donors may not get information about certain events, and the organization could miss out on donations. That communication helps keep the relationship going with donors and potential donors so it's really important."
Though she was assigned one major project to work on for the organization, Jasmine Johnson said she was proud to be part of its mission.
"Every little piece comes together to make something bigger. So I feel like even if I'm just entering data or if I'm researching, it's for the larger purpose of what this organization does,"
She said her experience at One Place was different from previous internships, which were mostly remote and where she received little feedback from supervisors. She found being immersed in an office setting gave her the experience she had been craving.
"Being in the office, I've had to interact face-to-face with people more than my other internships. The past two years, because of COVID and because of the computer science focus, my internships have been remote. I didn't have direct interaction and active feedback. Coming back into an office where I have to interact with others was really daunting, but it helped bring me out of my shell. So I'm learning more here, and I'm getting more professional development here,"
said Jasmine Johnson.
She said the One Place team encouraged her to speak up and share ideas in employee meetings, which allowed her confidence to grow as a member of the team.
During a discussion about the grand opening of the organization's new facility, she felt comfortable suggesting a way to engage more community members.
"Because the new site is next to a park, I suggested that if we want the public and community to learn more about One Place and to be aware of the services offered, what if we hold an event in the park where we have games and prizes and give out information for resources. They said, 'That is an excellent idea!' And I think they are going to utilize that. So, that was exciting for me. I was like, 'I did it!'"
Jasmine Johnson said.
She shared that the experience with One Place has offered so much more than professional development.
"One Place has a book club for employees. It allows people to open up about things they may have gone through growing up. For people to feel comfortable opening up like that in a workplace, it's really telling of the culture of a company,"
She revealed that her time at One Place has given her knowledge to help with other endeavors as well. While taking part in the internship, she was going through I-Corps@ECU, a program that guides people through the process of taking an innovative idea or product to the marketplace.
"I'm developing an app called MoodWise, which will give low-cost mental health care and greater accessibility to people especially in rural areas. Fundraising and pursuing grants will be important to achieving this. I have been able to learn more about that and the grant process with this internship,"
"It's also given me realistic expectations for my developing business. It's not going to happen easily. It's going to take a lot of work. There's going to be bumps in the road and it's OK - you just have to keep pushing. It's prepared me for potential frustrations that might come up,"
Jasmine Johnson said.
Her time with the nonprofit showed her how much goes into running an organization, and she said she's truly amazed at all they do.
"It's not just one particular thing One Place does, and I don't know how they manage it all. Child care, programs, fundraising ... I am in awe of everything my supervisor manages. I didn't realize how much work it takes to keep a nonprofit going,"
"What makes me feel inspired is what every individual does here. Every piece comes together to help the community. I feel like I'm serving a bigger purpose, and not a lot of employees can say that. We're here changing lives, and that's huge."
The experience at One Place has even guided her next steps.
"This internship has made me realize I really want to work in the community, and it's cemented my idea for MoodWise. But I also want to go to grad school to become a clinical mental health counselor. I want to be someone that can give back; that's important to me,"
Overall, Jasmine Johnson says this internship experience is exactly what she needed before she graduated.
"When I first started, I really was hoping to develop myself professionally,"
she said. "I didn't want to just be someone who was just good at coding or good at researching. I wanted to be more of a dynamic person so I had more to offer. I wanted to be able to lead. I wanted to be able to inspire. I wanted to be able to talk to people and to share empathy. I want to have more emotional intelligence. And I feel like doing this type of work and working so closely with people, you can't help but develop those skills. That isn't something I was able to do remotely. I needed to have this in-person professional development experience to learn that."