Restrospective: Dahlia DeHaan

Dahlia DeHaan was the Community Foundation’s first intern through the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce’s Youth @ Work Summer Employment Program. Dahlia returned to CFMC this summer through the Youth @ Work program, and we asked her to reflect on her experiences in the program and at CFMC.

Five Years Later … What I’ve Learned

Dahlia DeHaan

I’m no stranger to office work. The first job I ever had was at the Community Foundation of Middlesex County in the summer of 2012, since I had been accepted and enrolled in the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce Youth @ Work Program. I was 15. I expected mostly the general office administration work saved for the intern: filing, making copies, and fetching coffee. And while I did some filing and archiving, most of my time was spent planning events, such as the grantee receptions, anniversary celebrations, and fundraisers. I created guest lists, performed mail merges, and met a ton of cool people along the way.

After the summer Youth @ Work Program ended, a generous donor gave money to the Community Foundation to employ me during the school year. So I took a different bus to work after school three days a week. I got real-world experience, rather than practice, writing press releases, preparing event booklets, and editing our annual report.

I attended site visits to grantees like St. Vincent de Paul Place food pantry, where I learned that a family of one who qualifies to “shop” at the food pantry is only granted one box of past a month. I worked grantee receptions and formed a bond with CFMC’s family, friends, and supporters.

I have been enrolled in the Youth @ Work Program for a total of four summers – 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2017. In 2015, I graduated with honors from Middletown High School, and attended Curry College as a Communication major, where I consistently maintained a 4.0 GPA. In the meantime, the Community Foundation moved into the Caleb Fuller House on Main Street, generously donated by Rich and Joan Tomc and their daughters. I was thrilled to return to CFMC’s new home, with quadruple the space, natural light, and visitors!

I love working on Main Street, and I feel as though I’ve put the skills I learned in my communication scholar classes to good use. While I enjoyed learning the professional do’s and don’ts of corporate writing and business communications, I wondered how soon I would be able to practice the tools my professors had given me. To my surprise, it was sooner than I expected.

This summer, I wrote letters to donors, articles for the website, and new Fund descriptions into the community report. CFMC has provided me with resources, opportunities, and one-on-one counseling which allowed me to expand my work experience and portfolio. CFMC has taught me lessons in publishing and communication that I will never forget, and CFMC has taught me kindness and publ

ic relations, which I use every day.

CFMC has shared invaluable knowledge about the nonprofit organizations right here in Middletown and throughout Middlesex County, and the wonderful people who run and support them. I have seen firsthand the impact of community philanthropy.

While I used to think that only the extremely wealthy can be charitable, I’ve always recognized that the world isn’t going to change unless we all work together to make a difference. Working with donors and grantees, and everyone in between, at CFMC has shown me that magic that can happen when even those with very little still make the effort to make the world a better place. Because without all the little efforts and random acts of kindness made by people every day, we wouldn’t have any effort or any kindness in the world.

 

The CFMC internship has also taught me how to dress, behave, and speak professionally, and I have never stopped using these skills. CFMC has transformed me from a young and naïve child to a smart young woman and blossoming professional, and for that, I couldn’t be more thankful.

Being the youngest one at the office, at 20 years old, it is comforting to share my life’s accomplishments as well as struggles with my co-workers. CFMC always has advice to give me, but what’s even better that that is they never stop believing in me. The past five years, CFMC has been my biggest cheerleader – a support network that I could go to for anything. And that’s more valuable than any paycheck.

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