Section: News

Knox County Foundation to fund community internships

Kenyon College will receive $33,000 in funds over the next two years from the Knox County Foundation (KCF), a collection of individual philanthropic funds that serves as an endowment bank for all of Knox County. 

The foundation will support Kenyon’s Community Internship Program, which funds student internships with Knox County’s local nonprofit organizations. Half of the funds will be used to pay student interns for their participation in these nonprofit internships during the 2022-23 academic year, and the other half of the funds will be used to pay student interns in the following academic year. 

Established in 2017, the Community Internship Program aims to connect students with local internships during the school year, giving them an opportunity to work closely with Knox County residents and apply their skills and knowledge while contributing to the community. 

The vast majority of these internships started off unpaid, although now thanks to funding from three third-party donors — the KCF, Mark and Denise Rasmer and Park National Bank — over 60% of these internships are now paid. The Office for Community partnerships reviews each internship opportunity to determine a pay scale comparable to on-campus jobs. 

Lee Schott, dean for career development, believes that offering more paid internships will increase their competitiveness, and also make their pay scale more competitive with that of on-campus jobs. “It raises the profile of the program,” he said. “These were great opportunities, but you start funding them, you raise the profile; you’re getting more students involved.”

Jan Thomas, director of the Office for Community partnerships, noted that the new funds represent the local community’s interest in working and creating connections with Kenyon students. “They realize that Kenyon students have some expertise. They’re very creative, they’re really fun to work with, they have good ideas, they have some skills — a lot of these nonprofits are very small, so they have maybe just two or three employees,” she said. “Kenyon students actually have a lot to offer across the board, regardless of their major, to these local nonprofits.”

For the Career Development Office and the Office of Community Partnerships, obtaining KCF funding has been a multi-year process. Kenyon College initially requested money from the KCF in 2020, but received less than it had hoped for, as the foundation was uncertain that Kenyon’s efforts would be successful. After a year of giving presentations and writing grant proposals for larger funds, the College’s efforts were ultimately successful.  

“We continue to build and iterate the program and make it better, and I think that’s been recognized by the funding that they’ve been giving us,” Schott said.

The College believes that the new funding will also allow it to pilot one or two community-engaged summer internships this coming summer. Kenyon plans to submit another proposal to the KCF in two years when the grant period ends, with hopes that there will continue to be a number of opportunities to deepen the relationships between Kenyon students and the Knox County community.

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