New Centre-in-Chicago program offers unique internship, opportunity for personal growth for Emily Morrell ’16
As a leader in experiential education, Centre College is committed to expanding and enhancing opportunities for students both on and off campus. This fall, the College launched its latest domestic “study away” program in Chicago in partnership with the Associated Colleges of the Midwest, complementing its existing Washington, D.C., offering.
The Chicago program features an innovative mix of academic work that focuses on the arts and creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship, and urban studies and social justice. In addition, students spend a significant portion of their time outside the traditional classroom as they explore the city attending cultural events, interacting with community organizations, meeting with business leaders and experiencing all that Chicago has to offer. This emphasis on engaged learning is what first appealed to Emily Morrell ’16, one of two Centre students participating in the debut program.
“I was initially attracted to the program because I knew it would be something so different from Centre,” explains the religion and history double major from Greeneville, Tenn. “I’m fairly independent and love to explore new places—this program has allowed me to capitalize on both of those aspects of myself in ways I never anticipated.”
Another draw of the Chicago program is its internship component. Students intern two days each week with a local organization or business, gaining hands-on experience in their field of interest. Morrell is currently interning with Alternatives, a non-profit youth and family services agency that seeks to develop leadership potential in Chicago’s young people, prevent violence and abuse, and provide academic enrichment and counseling. She is specifically working for a branch of Alternatives called Girl World, an afterschool program for girls ages 12-18 that teaches empowerment and social awareness.
“This semester we’re focusing on how women are negatively portrayed in the media and helping the girls create their own empowering stories through such mediums as video, photography or poster-making,” says Morrell. “Later in the semester we’ll be talking about the lack of women in STEM (science, engineering, technology and math) careers and invite women in those fields from throughout Chicago to speak with the girls. The hope is that some of these female professionals will not only show the girls that women are more than capable of entering those fields but also potentially serve as mentors or references.”
Morrell believes Girl World plays a critical role in the lives of these young women, especially in terms of boosting their self-esteem and enabling them to make positive decisions.
“I think that the work Girl World (and Alternatives as a whole) does is so important because the majority of the program participants are constantly inundated with negative images of themselves and the world they live in,” she says. “The programming we do helps youth use their inherent enthusiasm to make positive changes, not only within themselves, but in their communities as well.”
Despite facing challenges along the way, Morrell has found intense fulfillment in her work helping others reach their potential.
“Working with an inner city nonprofit presents new challenges every day, but the rewards I receive in spending time with the girls in our program far outweigh any pessimism that might be clouding my thoughts,” she says. “They are incredible young women, and I’m so lucky I have the chance to get to know them this semester.”
Ultimately, Morrell is confident that her experience with Girl World will prove to be invaluable in achieving her long-term goals. She hopes to work with a nonprofit that serves youth, most likely the Presbyterian Church. More important than any career experience she has gained, however, is the way these young women have touched her life.
“I have found inspiration in their enthusiasm, their humor, their resilience and their love of being in community with one another,” Morrell says.
Learn more about Centre-in-Chicago.
Learn more about Girl World.
by Caitlan Cole