Even as a teenager growing up in New York City, Oscar Castillo ’19 would often wander into one of the city’s many notable museums, such as the Museum of Natural History and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Eventually, he would go on to intern at both while he was still attending high school.
“I didn’t realize at the time the privilege I had growing up in New York City,” said the anthropology major. “It wasn’t until I moved to the North Country that I realized not everyone has access to such cultural resources that I did.”
So, when the opportunity to intern with the North Country Children’s Museum came up through the St. Lawrence University Public Interest Corps program, Oscar didn’t hesitate to apply. And, he had the full support of the nascent museum’s director and Visiting Assistant Professor of Education Sharon Vegh Williams.
“It’s actually one of my favorite stories to tell,” recalled Oscar, who takes part in the New York State Higher Education Opportunity Program, or HEOP. “I took a museum education course at SLU from Sharon. When I told her I had interned at the Museum of Natural History and the MET, she set me up with Liz Regosin (professor of history) to do an independent study and that’s when I started participating in the (North Country Children’s) Museum’s Saturday Program. When I told Sharon I had applied for the SLUPIC program, she said I was the perfect fit.”
SLU PIC partners St. Lawrence students and recent graduates with local nonprofit organizations to improve their ability to provide services and help develop the next generation of leaders.
This summer, Oscar became Sharon’s “right-hand-man,” going to events around St. Lawrence County, interacting with children, researching corporate sponsorship and attending board meetings.
“Even during the meetings, people look at me and ask, ‘what do you think, Oscar?’” he said somewhat bewilderedly. “It’s still amazing to me … I never thought I’d get to have this privilege. It’s like in the musical ‘Hamilton,’ when he sings about finally being ‘in the room.’ I feel like I’m finally ‘in the room.’”
Another popular program that helps fund student internships is the Internship Fellowship program. Operated through Career Services, the fellowship helps student pay for travel and living expenses that would otherwise prevent them from taking an unpaid internship. This year, 62 St. Lawrence intern fellows worked across the United States and around the globe, including four students who interned at the World Bank in Washington, D.C.
Closer to campus, Kelsey Mattison ’18 of Utica, New York, and Claire Mendes ’18 of Hartland, Vermont, both received the Macdonald Journalism Internship Fellowship award to work at North Country Public Radio (NCPR) this summer. The two both had experience working at The Hill News but found working at a radio station to be quite different.
“We spend the first part of our day cutting up the 8 o’clock news and putting it online,” explained Claire, an English and philosophy double major who is a photo editor and writer for The Hill News. “Then we get to go out and find on our own for spotlight features placed online and, if worthy enough, on the air.”
Kelsey, an environmental studies-English major who will be a managing editor at The Hill News in the fall, said working in the NCPR studio feels more like real-world work.
“We’re not just doing student news,” she said. “We’re trying a totally different medium and telling stories that we find in a completely new way. Working in radio, you not only have the interview to think about, you have to thing about the soundscape in the background, which requires a slightly artistic approach that I never thought about before.”
Established in 1997, the Internship Fellowship Award is designed to promote leadership and career development opportunities for undergraduate students. The awarded is meant to help offset living and transportation expenses incurred during the student’s internship experience.