College initiates year-long apprentice program with local nonprofits

Friday, Sep. 10, 2010 3:37 pm

With the start of the new academic year, Grinnell College has launched a program designed to help the college, its students, local nonprofit organizations and the entire community. Created by Monica Chavez-Silva through the Office of Community Enhancement and Engagement in cooperation with numerous other college offices, the program has chosen six apprentices interested in learning nonprofit management and placed them with six nonprofit organizations in paid positions lasting a year. Five of the organizations are Imagine Grinnell, the Claude W. and Dolly Ahrens Foundation, the Chamber of Commerce, the Grinnell Area Arts Council and Poweshiek Iowa Development. Chavez-Silva added the Office of Community Enhancement and Engagement as the sixth organization. Chavez-Silva relates that the genesis of the apprenticeship program arose from two assessments of semester-long college internship programs from which the organizations have benefitted in the past. Each organization has valued the work and energy of interns but regretted their assignment for only half a year and the interruptions caused by college breaks. At the same time, the five organizations with which Chavez-Silva regularly works express the desire to work more closely together in pairs or larger coalitions. Finding the same assessments in her own office. Chavez-Silva proposed the year-long program. Chavez-Silva predicted that students would find the chance to develop skills in nonprofit management an attractive option. In addition, some students who would otherwise make able apprentices do not qualify for work study programs, a limitation not included in the qualifications for apprentices. Enough students applied for the apprenticeships to allow the selection committee to be very selective, she notes. While offering increased options for students, the program helps the nonprofits by providing continuity for an entire year. Apprentices were asked to commit to curtailing their absences during breaks. Chavez-Silva points out that nonprofit organizational work continues, whether the college is on break or not, so apprentices were asked to make their plans for breaks accordingly. The apprentices will meet once a week for lunch during the year to learn from each other's experiences and also to discuss projects on which they are working as a means of finding ways for organizations to collaborate. Chavez-Silva gives as an example the very successful "Walk to School Day" most of the organizations helped to promote last fall. The organizations are likely to turn over the entire effort to the apprentices this year as a project on which the apprentices and their organizations can collaborate. "From my perspective this is a purposeful attempt to try to think about the college's engagement in the community in a programmatic way - not a financial way but a programmatic way," Chavez-Silva says of the apprenticeship program. "It's a way deliberately to bring the programs of the six organizations together, and it's a way to support the work of all the organizations."