The internships are part of a joint program of the Walker Area Community Foundation and the University of Alabama’s New College.
The interns were introduced during a visit Monday with members of the Kiwanis Club of Jasper.
The student interns are Lizzie Ernstberger of Birmingham; Ryan Cummins of Chicago; Mary Caroline May of Tuscaloosa; Summer Upchurch of Montgomery; Ainsley Steweart of Falls Church, Virginia; Katy Turner of Midland, Texas; and Amy Ackerman of Florida.
Ernstberger, who participated in the program last summer, is back this year and will serve as a coordinator for the interns.
“I’m here to supervise their role and their transition to service in Walker County,” Ernstberger, a recent UA graduate, told Kiwanis members.
The program is “a concept of learning together through a collaborative effort between the New College at the uinversity and the Walker Area Community Foundation,” she said. Its goal is to look at the the needs of the community and find the different areas that the community foundation can respond to.
Each intern has been assigned to a specific area of the community foundation’s strategic plan. The areas the interns will focus on include healthly lifestyles and recreation, education and school readiness, career readiness, nonprofits, and vision and alignments.
“We need their bright minds and physical abilities,” said Paul Kennedy, president of the Walker Area Community Foundation. “It’s a win-win for us to have them in the community.”
This is the fourth year for the program, he said.
In the first year of the program, the interns lived separately throughout the county. Since that time, they’ve shared one residence, and Kennedy said that has been beneficial to the interns.
“(Having them together) really added value to the process,” he said.
While in the county, the interns represent the Walker Area Community Foundation, and each has a specific area of need they are working on.
“We’ve got six objectives we’ve identified in our strategic planning process — two internal and four external,” Kennedy said. “We’re really focusing them on the external. We try to match them up with what they are most interested in.
“We try to match up their academic background with their professional desire,” he added, “but it’s not always a one-on-one relationship. We sometimes fit them into something else.”
Each of the interns started researching the county several months prior to relocating.
“We go down there and they come up here,” Kennedy said, “and we talk about the opportunities we see coming up and what we would really like them to do. They each also have their own passion project that they will work on while they are here.”
One of the biggest assets of the program, Kennedy said, is having bright, intelligent young people from outside the county to come in and help identify areas that can be improved.
“Their technical abilities are phenomenal,” he said. “I can drop a question on them, and 48 hours later I’ve got great solutions to it.”
In the program’s first two years, the interns remained “fairly invisible,” Kennedy said.
“We’ve been learning and refining this process every year,” he said. “When they came up this year, they had already interviewed people in their key areas, so there was already some knowledge that they were coming. They’ve been received very well, I think, by the community.”
Community meetings are planned across the county throughout the summer, with the goal of indentifying needs in each community.
Meetings that have been scheduled include:
•Cordova Community Meeting on Tuesday, July 15, at Cordova High School.
•West Walker Community Meeting on Thursday, July 17, at Carbon Hill High School.
•East Walker Community Meeting on Thursday, July 31, at Dora High School.
•Jasper Community Meeting on Thursday, Aug. 7, at the Community Health Systems Activities Center.
•Parrish Community Meeting on Thursday, Aug. 14, at Parrish High School.
•Oakman Community Meeting on Thursday, Sept. 4, at Oakman High School.
•Curry Community Meeting on Thursday, Sept. 11, at Curry High School.
All meetings are open to the public and will begin at 5 p.m. with a 20-minute meet-and-greet, followed by an informational meeting that will end by 7 p.m.