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Warrior Strong Initiative: Making Lycoming connections amid a pandemic

The remote possibility of a summer internship

Each year, Lycoming’s Center for Enhanced Academic Experiences assists students with summer internship placements with various companies and organizations throughout the country. Unfortunately, more than 90 percent of internships were cancelled this year due to the pandemic. Through the assistance and creativity of a Lycoming alumna and the use of modern technology, Valeria Renée Rivera ’22, a business administration and art (commercial design) double-major with an art history minor from San Salvador, El Salvador, was able to successfully perform the duties of her internship remotely.

Valeria Rivera photo

This past summer, Rivera served at Goodwill Industries International (GII) as a public relations and communications intern. Throughout her internship, she created external communication materials such as press releases, social media messaging, and marketing and communication plans. She also designed GII’s first diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) logo as well as template versions for GII’s 156 Goodwill® community-based, independent, nonprofit organizations. Additional tasks during her internship included monitoring and analyzing trends of traditional media, developing social assets and serving as administrator for GII’s social media channels, and creating thought leadership opportunities for GII’s president and CEO.

“My experience at Goodwill helped me grow as a professional and as a leader,” said Rivera. “I was challenged every week with tasks I had never encountered before and developed practical work skills I will use for the rest of my career. I was also able to connect with people throughout the organization who welcomed me with open arms and offered their help in every step of the way. Overall, this internship gave me so much more than what it originally promised, and I am extremely grateful to have been part of such a talented, kind team.”

Leveraging the Lycoming connection
By Lauren Lawson-Zilai ’99
Senior Director, Public Relations - Goodwill Industries International
@GoodwillIntl  @LaurenLLawson

Lycoming College is known for building future generations focused on civic engagement and impacting the world in meaningful ways. As a member of the President’s Leadership Council and an engaged alumna, I quickly learned of students whose internships had been disrupted or canceled as a result of the pandemic. Because of my existing relationships at the college, I was able to leverage the opportunity to advertise an internship position on the marketing and communications team at GII.

Most people know Goodwill as a brand name in retail, but it is actually the largest nonprofit workforce provider in the world, transforming donated goods into training and employment services for more than 25 million people each year. The revenue from the sale of goods is used to provide credentials, certifications, classes and training in a variety of industries as well as support services, such as child care, employment, financial education, free tax preparation, mentoring, housing, and more for anyone facing challenges to finding employment.

Lauren Lawson-Zilai photoDuring the pandemic, much of Goodwill’s mission transitioned online. In addition, Goodwill nonprofit organizations across the country are providing response and relief efforts by using their donation centers as COVID testing sites, creating personal protective equipment for emergency responders, providing smocks to local hospitals, and lending donation trucks to food kitchens to deliver food to local communities. I needed an intern who could help tell that story. Lycoming provided me with rising juniors with business and communications experience to interview competitively for the position.

It is with great fortune that I was able to have Valeria as a virtual colleague for eight weeks while also providing her with a professional and personally fulfilling opportunity after the cancellation of her previous internship. This was Valeria’s first internship experience, and she was tasked with high-level responsibilities that would be given to an entry-level professional. She excelled in her role and demonstrated emotional maturity, creativity, influence, empathy and drive. Valeria is an extremely talented individual, yet it was also Lycoming College’s emphasis on soft skills and critical thinking that set her apart and is one of the benefits of an educational experience at Lycoming.

During her internship, Valeria created promotional plans, pitched media, produced a thought leadership strategy, managed our social media channels, designed our first DEI logos, monitored the impact of the pandemic on our donated goods retail operations, and played a critical role as a Gen Zer in assessing our channels, determining the best channels for our CEO’s thought leadership, and informing our team on how to message sustainability and our mission to reach younger shoppers and donors. Valeria is a self-starter and independent problem solver while also being a collaborative and personable team player. Her superior writing, design and project management skills yielded positive results to advance the work of our marketing and communications team and the overall strategic plan of the organization. Valeria’s contributions were immeasurable. I am grateful that she became a trusted member of our team and a life-long friend.

Lawson-Zilai and RiveraLawson-Zilai and Rivera were able to connect virtually via Zoom, as they did throughout Rivera’s eight-week summer internship with Goodwill.

Warrior Strong Initiative

When you refer job or internship opportunities to Lycoming College, it can make an incredible difference for current students or recent graduates. Alumni, parents, and friends are encouraged to inform the Center for Enhanced Academic Experiences (CEAE) of opportunities within their networks. Your connections can positively impact the life of a young person. 

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