At College for Social Innovation, we know that our first jobs and internships shaped our futures and cultivated our passion for social sector work. These experiences are the reason we are here today! The beginning of summer marks the start of similar experiences for college students everywhere—experiences that will open doors of opportunity and launch inspiring careers. In this blog series, our staff will tell the stories of their own first internships, sharing advice, memories, and appreciation for their earliest professional experiences.
Mercedes Hanton is our Program Manager of Student Experience! She graduated from the College of New Jersey, as well as Northeastern University where she received her Master’s in School Counseling. In her role at CFSI, she oversees the delivering a high quality program experience to undergraduate Social Innovation Fellows.
What made you interested in this type of work?
As a first-generation college student, I have a passion for creating access to opportunities for all students. We put a strong emphasis on college access and completion (SO IMPORTANT) and there is still a gap on how to support students as first generational professionals! I worked for several years in talent development and I saw many talented individuals feel like they were behind because of a lack of experience, mentorship, and network. This put a fire in me to support the next generations of leaders to better equip them for the real world, and to motivate them as changemakers. As the Manager of Student Experiences, I have the opportunity to provide brave spaces, support young people to be independent, and foster self-advocacy in young people. These are skills that will help them thrive for years to come!
What is one piece of advice you would give to students in their first internship?
Do not let fear hold you back! You are not supposed to know everything; ask questions and use your resources. Your mentor wants you to be successful, so don’t be afraid to use them as a resource. You have something to offer—don’t underestimate your value!
What was your first job experience like?
Technically my first job was a garbage collector at age 6. I would go around the neighborhood and collect trash from neighbors and throw it in the dumpster for a few dollars #sidehustle (a girl needed a candy budget!) My first professional job was as a City Year corps member an Americorps program that gives 18-24-year-olds the opportunity to do community service for 10 months. I moved to Boston from New Jersey and I didn’t know a soul! It was the hardest, yet most rewarding, time of my life. I built incredible skills, gained mentors, and life long connections. There were times I failed but I learned. There were times I wanted to quit and give up, but I pushed through and I’m glad I did. Although the struggle was real, it’s a distant memory because the skills I built were far greater than temporary discomfort.